Habitat RVers Return for R&R
Why would 10 couples from as far away as Texas and Michigan keep returning to Moore County year after year to help with Habitat for Humanity's mission?
"We love your Southern hospitality and many kindnesses to us during our stay," says Polly Paterek.
She and her husband, Jack, from Michigan are leaders of the group that started in 2000. They have come back every year since.
"They've come for 'R and R,'" says Judie Wiggins, Habitat volunteer coordinator. "They've come to build a house in 'Richmond' County and 'repair' houses in Moore County. These couples have driven their recreational vehicles (RVs) here annually to build one or two houses for Habitat families during a two-week period in the fall.
They've built houses in Aberdeen, Robbins, Southern Pines and Carthage. This year, during their first week, they began building a home in Richmond County, which has been part of our Sandhills Habitat's area of responsibility for the last five years.
"The rainy weather precluded us from getting too much done on the house," said John Covert, a Pennsylvanian, who's been here every year with wife, Carol, known as the "Chopsaw Lady."
"Instead, we 'built' inside the new Habitat Restore in Rockingham during those days," said Cassie Blake, a 10-year veteran with husband, Chad, from northeast of Raleigh. "Yes, we built storage shelves for the new store, as well as 11 large bookcases that will be used to display sale items."
"And then we painted it all, including the walls of the storage area," said Ron Lerch, an eight-year returnee from Pennsylvania.
Tony Morris, from Northern Virginia, who is here with his wife, Diana, said, "It's so much brighter and fresher looking for the volunteers and staff who work there."
Their second week has been spent in the Midway community of Aberdeen repairing as many as eight homes as part of the repair mission of Habitat and in preparation for building new Habitat homes there in October.
"We're excited about assisting more than one family this year by doing smaller repair jobs that these deserving folks wouldn't otherwise be able to afford," said Dottie Shipes, a full-time RVer with husband, Ken. This is their third year here.
The local Habitat affiliate has had a part-time repair ministry for more than seven years, helping folks make their homes more livable and safe.
Since December 2008, Sue Bullock McKenzie has been the full-time chief of the Neighborhood Repair Ministry (NRM), a formal program initiated by Habitat International. She receives and reviews applications from homeowners, who have small jobs such as weatherization, exterior painting, building a handicapped ramp to the house, new roof, bathroom improvements or fixing water-damaged floors, with a maximum cost of $5,000 per house.
Program eligibility requirements are for single family, detached homes occupied by the owner, whose income is below 60 percent of the county's median income guidelines. Both property taxes and homeowner's insurance must be current, with no danger of foreclosure.
If the application is approved, the homeowner must agree to complete eight community service hours for every $1,000 of repair material costs, as well as repaying an interest-free loan. The community service can be tutoring children, watering of community landscaping and other tasks as needed.
Labor is free for these projects, thanks to volunteers such as the RVers, monthly church groups from Aberdeen First Baptist, Southern Pines, Pinehurst and Roseland United Methodist Churches, and youth groups from Community Presbyterian in Pinehurst. They generally volunteer on Saturdays but come other days when they want to finish a project.
The "Southern hospitality" the Patereks mentioned refers to the snacks and lunches provided by volunteers and organizations during their stay. Specifically, "Muffin Mamas" in Richmond and Moore Counties kept them refreshed during their morning break. Restaurants from Hamlet and Rockingham fed them during their first week.
Golden Corral, Jersey Mike's Subs, The Village Chapel, Bojangles and the fourth-floor medical nurses of FirsthHealth Moore Regional Hospital provided lunches this week
"No wonder I've gained a few pounds," said Nancy Dile, from Florida, who is here for the second time.
They park their RVs at Sycamore Lodge Resort in Jackson Springs.
"We can't say enough about the warm welcome we receive there," said Bob Ireland, another full-time RVer, who is here with wife, Mary.
Elizabeth Cox, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills, said, "Thanks for coming once more to improve the lives of our area citizens in different building ways."
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