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Dorchester Habitat for Humanity’s 65th Homeowner

Jessica Nelson has been dreaming of this moment for 5 years. Walking onto a yard that is hers with a front porch to watch the birds, sun streaming through the trees and neighbors who stop by to welcome her to the area. Jessica is Dorchester Habitat for Humanity’s 65th Homeowner who will live in the blue home at 204 Lake Drive in Summerville along with her 11 year old son and 8 year old daughter.

“I want my son to learn how to use a lawnmower, and have the freedom to play outside with other kids,” she said. “My kids are so excited to have their own grass, I brought them here and all they could do is stare at it.”

Jessica thanks her grandmother for the lasting experiences she had growing up that she now wants to share with her children.

“My grandmother raised me from three weeks old, my mother gave me to her,” she said. “She died in 2014 but I know she’s here in spirit and is proud of all I’ve accomplished. Thanks to her I grew up in a house where I had my own bed and yard, but at our apartment the kids are always starting fights or picking on each other.  I told myself that it’s time to look for something better because I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking it’s okay to fight.”

Jessica worked to clear up her credit score before beginning the 425 sweat equity hours required by the homeownership program. She was able to complete these hours at the construction site and in the ReStore thanks to her manager at East Coast Bedding who let her be flexible with her schedule. She tries to set an example for her kids with the hard work she’s put into building this home.

“I would use it as motivation for myself but also for them to do well in school and just keep trying,” she said.

Now she feels like it was all God’s timing for her to move into her new home now when she works only a mile away and has formed new habits that help her save money and stay out of debt. Although she didn’t have prior building experience she said she will miss coming out on Saturdays to build with the group.

“The greatest part about it was coming here and working with Bob and everyone else,” she said. “Sometimes they were hilarious and sometimes they were serious. It was a nice family.”

The Robinson Family Story

When God is the Lord of your life, He often asks you to do something that requires a leap of faith. When we agree with God it is easy to take that leap forward. When the request requires us to face a painful truth, we would rather not.

Michael and Tierra Robinson had been saving money for months to purchase a manufactured home from his brother. Finally, they had $3,000, enough to take the next step. Their family of 6 was in desperate need of a new home…. but God had another idea. Michael had taken some money from his brother during a destructive time in his life. God told Michael to give his brother the money and let the idea of the home go…. for now. Miraculously, Michael and Tierra took that leap of faith and put the dream of that home on pause. But when that door closed, another opened, the door of a Dorchester Habitat home.

This was only possible because this couple has built their marriage on the solid rock of Jesus as the cornerstone. They met at The Harvest Center Church on College Park Road. Tierra’s mom’s best friend told her about the church 19 years ago and Michael’s mom had joined the church when he was 19. Michael’s mom and his sister were hoping that attending church might keep him out of trouble. As God would have it, that is exactly what did happen. Michael realized that he needed help fighting his drug addiction and came forward during an altar call that he credits with saving his life. His aunt Darlene played matchmaker and his first date Tierra was at the Waffle House. They were married 3 months later!

Although 7 years of marriage and 4 children have been a blessing, things have not been easy. As many husbands do, Michael thought that he was the head of the household and that Tierra should ‘tow the line’. On the other hand, Tierra became resentful and angry with the responsibility of motherhood and stretched finances. Again, the Holy Spirit and their faith came to the rescue. Instead of a divorce, Michael realized that that his attitude was a problem and Tierra found a mentor in the church to guide her. They asked God to change them and instead of a divorce their marriage grew stronger.

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Dorchester Habitat welcomes newest Homeowner!

Rezinda White’s Story; Talking the Talk?  You had Better be Walking the Walk!

You have to walk the walk if you are going to talk the talk.

If we want to set a good example as parents and stand on principals instead of taking the easy way out, this is an absolute truth.  Rezinda White walks the walk and has done so throughout a life of challenges.  Proof of this is apparent in her amazing work history and the legacy she leaves in her children.

It all began where Rezinda was raised in Cottageville.  Her grandparents owned 100 acres and her grandmother and her mother were the first female loggers in South Carolina.  They gave estimates to area landowners to buy their timber and took it to area mills.  When she wasn’t busy wielding her chainsaw and setting a good example for her three daughters, her mother was driving the school bus.  Unfortunately, Rezinda’s father became increasingly abusive to his wife and daughters and her mother had to end her marriage and get a new start.  She quit logging and started painting homes…this is where Rezinda learned one of her first skills: master woodwork and wall painter!

Her life of unique careers continued when she turned 16 and became a school bus driver.  Back then, they would hire teens to drive busses…an unbelievable idea now, considering the huge responsibility involved in maneuvering a 3 ton vehicle bearing priceless (but distracting) children through traffic and other obstacles.  Disruptive youngsters who stood on seats to cause trouble found themselves hanging on for dear life when Rezinda hit the brakes to keep her passengers in order.

After graduating from high school in Walterboro, Rezinda worked at bakeries in the Piggly Wiggly in Summerville and the K-Mart on Rivers Avenue.  It was here that Rezinda began what would be a lifelong career as a talented cake decorator.  She had her first son Brad and met a handsome navy ensign who would sweep her off her feet and off to Florida as a navy wife.  While her husband Joe was out on ships for three months at a time, Rezinda went to work at Kroger…again in the bakery.  Her second son P.J. was born in the hospital…but just barely…she was whisked out of the taxi and in the hospital hallway where out he came!

Rezinda and Joe were married for about 4 years and their third son Justin was born after they moved back to South Carolina.  When she and her husband separated, she moved to Summerville with her three sons for a new start.

The challenge was that they were really starting from scratch; living in a mobile home with just a bed and a TV, they met a ministry team from Riverbend Baptist Church.  The church also had a mobile home in the park set up to support families and get children involved in community outreach.  They invited Rezinda and her family into the fold and eventually Rezinda earned a job as the church secretary and later became the director of their daycare for three years.  This experience with early childhood development gave Rezinda an idea…why not open her own after school program as a 501-C3 classroom?  She teamed up with a landlord who had a building with 4 apartments, got school donations and wrote grants. As a result her ‘Good News’ after school program opened for four and five year olds.

Over the next 10 years, Rezinda set up several after school programs with churches and schools.  She combined earnings from these programs with income from working at grocery stores and for several years also had her own bakery.  Some days she would drive from Ladson in the early morning to work in a grocery store bakery in Mt. Pleasant and rush back to North Charleston to welcome students to her after school program by 3:00.

Rezinda’s creative solutions for providing a living and quality of life for her family proved successful.  Her sons have grown up to be amazing young men.  Could it be that the artistry that she has shown creating cakes for every occasion has been transferred to her sons in different ways?

Here is the irony…  Her oldest son Brad has moved to Australia and is a video game designer with a successful studio.  Her youngest son Justin is an IT expert.  Rezinda is still learning how to use her GPS…she prefers to get good directions written down on paper the old fashioned way!  Her son P.J. is an entrepreneur with a window tinting business.  Some of the best payback from her sons? Two adorable grandchildren!  What did she do as a parent to get such great results?  When asked that question she says “I never let them go to people’s houses that I didn’t know.”  The whole family was also very affected by the Christian love and the relationships they shared at Riverbend Baptist Church during some tough times.

By 2015, Rezinda’s sons were independent young men on different roads to success, but she had not settled down in a home of her own.  She was bouncing around from apartment to apartment when her son Justin invited her to move in with him while they created a strategy to find her a home of her own.  One day she was watching TV and saw a commercial for Dorchester Habitat for Humanity.  Her investigation led to her being accepted into their homeownership program and the beginning of a two year process.  Rezinda has been through a five session program to get her finances in order, to repair her credit rating and to save enough money in the bank for her down payment, closing costs and also save an emergency fund.

In November, Rezinda got a call saying funding was secured for her home and she and Justin jumped for joy!  She has been painting houses all her life, so has really enjoyed her volunteer time applying her paint brush talents on the Habitat houses built in recent months with her neighbors Valorie, Latasha and Shirley.

Rezinda cut the ribbon to her new home on Saturday, May 20th alongside her family and sponsor Duncan- Parnell. She is looking forward to finally having a home of her own and a place for those grandchildren to come and play.  She is still baking and after more than 30 years with her reputation as ‘the cake lady’, retirement is not an option.  If you want to be inspired, take some time to volunteer on this home build on a Habitat Home.  Meet the team of faithful volunteers, many of whom show up every Saturday just because they are servant leaders and ask yourself…are you walking the walk?

Our 49th Homeowner! – Natasha Speller

Just a few short weeks before she receives the keys to her new Habitat home on March 8th, Natasha Speller sits down to talk to us about her family and shares her story with the Dorchester Habitat for Humanity community.

Natasha’s experience with Habitat began when a friend, who was a current Habitat homeowner, told her about the program and how to get involved.

The friend, Ms. Denise, told Natasha to simply attend meeting at the Dorchester Habitat for Humanity center off Greyback Road in Summerville, SC. Right away Natasha decided to call habitat to ask how she could not only get involved but also asked how she one day could own a Habitat home of her own. After attending meetings Natasha began to volunteer her time. She did not have a job when she started volunteering but things shortly changed three months later.

Natasha got a job at iQor in North Charleston, and qualified to be a homeowner through the Habitat program. She says that is where her journey to getting a home of her own home started.

Natasha has been in the program for two years volunteering on seven other builds to give others homes, while also volunteering in the Dorchester Habitat office.

Natasha said, “Sometimes things got difficult but in the end everything was well worth it.” She told Habitat the program has helped to better her life in more ways than one, giving her hope for a brighter future.

Being a mother of four, Natasha has wanted nothing more than to own her own home and to give her children a good life in a safe home environment to grown in. Previously Natasha and her four children were living in an apartment but when an intruder broke in to their home. Natasha says, “I needed to find a safer place to raise my children.”

Currently Natasha and her children—Ja’Vonte (14), Toneyae (10), Natiava (7) and Tristeyn (3) are living with her parents. Their situation although tight is only temporary says Natasha, they make the best of their living situation and are happy to be together with family.  Keeping a positive attitude she knows that soon she will have a home to call her own, keeping in mind that all of her hard work, patience, and sacrifices will have paid off.

Natasha and her children are overwhelmed with excitement. Moving in to their new home, only five minutes from her parents home, should be an easy transition she says. They already have furniture for their new home waiting in storage. Natasha is so happy about the entire experience she and her family has had and plans to continue involvement with the Dorchester Habitat for Humanity, volunteering her time when and as much as she can. Natasha thanks the Dorchester Habitat for Humanity for everything that the program has done for her.

“I want to thank Habitat for giving me this opportunity. When I went in to volunteer for Habitat they made me feel like family right off the back. It is a wonderful program and everyone treats you well making everything well worth it.” Not only did she gain a home from Habitat, she gained a family.