A cold breeze blew across a huddled group of people standing in the driveway of a town home in Milton, GA. Hushed conversations were held over mugs of gas station coffee cups held by gloved hands. The quiet was soon pierced by giggling of small children bundled warmly running to the park area in the center of the homes where they descended onto the swing set.
The children's laughter and joy suddenly transformed the circle of 29 town homes into a neighborhood. One that any parent or family would be overjoyed to be apart.
Soon the huddled group in the driveway became so large it spilled out onto the road in front of the home and into the edge of the park. This was a day of celebration marking the completion of the final four of the 29 town homes that make up Centennial Village, a community designed and built by Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat for Humanity of North Central Georgia started construction of this community in 2007. The new home owners purchased the homes with zero percent mortgages financed by Habitat for Humanity. Make no mistake, these are not give away homes. These are affordable homes with no interest loans. The home owners are responsible for making their down payment and making their monthly mortgage payments. As Habitat explains it, "It's a hand UP, not a hand out", and "Decent, affordable housing transforms a family's life, breaking the cycle of poverty and improving health and educational outcomes."
Additionally, the homeowners invest "sweat equity" in the construction of their home along side volunteers, and sponsors of their home. They typically also work on the construction of a neighbor's home.
The stories from the new homeowners during the home dedication are a testimony of the impact Habitat has on families and communities. Today one of the homeowners shared that a few years ago she would have never dreamed of owning her own home after living in a homeless shelter for a period of time. But, now her and her children have a home of their own and are a part of a community where her children were playing and laughing on a cold breezy morning with several of their neighbors' children.
For more information on Habitat for Humanity, how it works and how to get involved, visit: http://www.habitat.org/how/factsheet.aspx