Habitat for Humanity Choptank after Twenty-Five Years by Nancy Andrew

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A bright light in my holiday season this year happened while meeting with a Habitat home buyer in her future living room. I looked out the window and what did I see? Something better than a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.  A big yellow school bus!

For each buyer who purchases a house with Habitat for Humanity Choptank, we host a dedication ceremony to bless the home and present the keys. This is a celebration by the community with the hardworking family filled with tears and smiles over the dream that has been realized.

Equally exciting, though less visible, are the milestones after a family has moved in. It is rewarding to see how household members having achieved a goal so audacious as buying a home that they helped to build go on to set and achieve other goals.

All of this is rooted in a new confidence and determination that was nurtured through their partnership with Habitat Choptank. Working hundreds of hours alongside volunteers to build our homes while learning construction skills. Attending education classes about budgeting while creating new habits for savings, home maintenance, and being a good neighbor. Paying off any collectible debt and saving thousands of dollars toward costs at settlement.

This is where the school bus comes in. If you’re volunteering on one of our construction sites on a school day and a yellow bus drives by with a honk and big wave, that’s Pumpkin Demby. Pumpkin, as she’s been affectionately known since she was a baby, has worked for a transportation company driving a school bus for one of the local school systems. She purchased her home from Habitat Choptank just before Thanksgiving 2015.

As Pumpkin will be the first to tell you, it took three applications for her to successfully meet Habitat’s financing requirements. Once qualified, she hit the ground running. In a process that takes most 12-18 months, Pumpkin was sitting at the settlement table just seven months later signing the papers to buy her first home. She had set a personal goal of becoming a homeowner before she turned 30. She was 29 when she made her first mortgage payment.

Earlier this year, we surveyed some of our home owners, asking questions about their finances, their neighborhoods and their overall experience with Habitat. In meeting with Pumpkin, I found out that when she set her home ownership goal there was a caveat. Her future home had to have a driveway and one long enough to park a bus because her next goal was to start her own transportation company.

Habitat Choptank focuses its work on infill lots within incorporated communities, mostly building in older neighborhoods. The lots are smaller and don’t have room for off street-parking. However, when Pumpkin joined the program, Habitat had a one-time grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development that made it possible to purchase some foreclosed and bank owned properties with vacant houses that could be renovated and resold. And so it happened that Pumpkin had the chance to buy a home with a driveway.

A new Habitat home is now under construction next door to Pumpkin and we were recently meeting there with her future neighbor. Pumpkin’s driveway runs between the two houses and, being lunchtime, a bus was parked at her house. Looking closer, two simple words on the side of the bus said it all: Demby Transportation.

This year, Habitat for Humanity Choptank celebrates 25 years of wonderful things happening here in our community. A stable, secure place to live is something we all need to thrive, and the years have shown us again and again what a strong foundation a Habitat house can be for a family. Better, more affordable living conditions can be the makings of a future in which stability and self-reliance are actually obtainable, not just aspirational.

Meanwhile, as we know from the calls received at the Habitat Choptank office every day, others in our community continue to struggle in providing adequate housing for their families. A helping hand and the opportunity to be part of their own housing solution can make all the difference.

You can help expand this work to positively impact more families like Pumpkin’s. As you consider your year-end charitable giving or look forward to the New Year resolving to get involved and make a difference, I hope you will consider Habitat Choptank.

Habitat for Humanity Choptank will be celebrating its 76th Home Dedication in early 2018. The community will be invited to help welcome the new family home. For more information about Habitat for Humanity Choptank please go here

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