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Fifteen months ago, the horizon of Christina McMillion’s life changed as Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity selected the Wilson native to receive the organization’s next house.
“It is a long process, but it is a worthy process,” McMillion told a living room full of people Saturday during the home dedication ceremony. “I just want to say thank you and God bless you all.”
Before Habitat for Humanity accepted McMillion and Tenesha Artis into the homeownership program, the single mother had been caring for her two children, including her autistic and epileptic son, in a rundown rental house.
Tammy Daniel, chairwoman for the family selection and support committee, said she knew she wanted the organization to help McMillion become a homeowner from the first time she walked into the woman’s house. Concerns about the house included a myriad of structural and safety issues such as water damage, a dilapidated shed in the backyard and loose electrical outlets.
“I can’t think of a family that deserves this more,” Daniel said.
Habitat for Humanity set out to build a handicapped-friendly three-bedroom, two-bathroom home on Privette Road. The organization broke ground in February and a variety of community members showed up to help turn the house into a home starting in May.
“This is probably one of the most fun houses we built because all the family — with extended family coming from Georgia, Wilmington and Raleigh — was here to help in the building of this house,” said Ken Jones, chairman of the construction committee. “It was really something.”
Jones pointed out that once it came time to paint the inside, McMillion’s daughter Kristiani was eager to paint her own bedroom. While McMillion attended financial literacy classes, she had her daughter learn the lessons firsthand by saving up to buy decor to personalize the preteen’s bedroom.
“It was truly amazing to see this house built from the ground up, and it let me know that God has a purpose for everything,” McMillion said.
Construction wrapped up in early fall and McMillion was able to move in before Thanksgiving despite not officially closing on the house.
Suzanne Coker Craig, executive director for the organization, said originally the closing was set to take place with the help of a Wilson attorney, but some misunderstandings and delays led her to a Goldsboro firm.
“The unexpected legal delays caused an issue with the notice she had given her landlord. So, the Habitat board agreed to set up a temporary lease agreement with Christina so she could go ahead and move in the house,” she said. “This was an extraordinary situation and the delay had nothing to do with Christina or any problem with her loan, so the board wanted to make sure we could get her into the house on schedule while we worked out the paperwork.”
While the construction is subsidized through donations and sweat equity, McMillion has a mortgage.
“It feels like Christina and her family are exactly what the Habitat founders had in mind when they created this fantastic housing organization,” Craig said. “We were able to give her a hand up.”
Officials are planning a groundbreaking for Artis’ home in February while her son is home from Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Construction is expected to start in March and be complete in the fall, depending on weather. Habitat homeowners are required to complete 200 hours of sweat equity and Artis has put in many of her hours by pitching in on McMillion’s house, working at the ReStore and volunteering during the N.C. Whirligig Festival.
Craig said she hopes seeing McMillion’s journey to homeownership will inspire others to contribute to making Artis’ own dream come true. Volunteers are encouraged to pitch in with construction, but for those uneasy about handling a hammer, contributions are accepted through the ReStore at 626 Ward Blvd.
“We take gently used furniture, household items, building materials, etc. and sell them at great prices, all to generate money that goes toward building our Habitat houses,” Craig said. “So folks can help build Tenesha’s house by donating items from their house.”
During the dedication ceremony, the Peace by Piecing Quilt Guild presented McMillion with three quilts — one for each of her children and one for the master bedroom. The Rev. Tuck Taylor offered a blessing for the house and Daniel presented McMillion with a Bible.
“You’re an inspiration and we wish you and your children many years of happiness in this home,” said Marla Parker, chairwoman of Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors.
A Place To Call Home
This is the seventh installment in a series of stories as the Times follows Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity’s two newest homeowners. Christina McMillion has completed a variety of classes, volunteer hours and more to get the keys to her new home. The organization will soon break ground on a home for Tenesha Artis. To donate, volunteer or learn more about Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity, visit www.wilsonhabitat.org/.