Habitat homeowner feels blessed
By Rheta Murry | (email@example.com)
What do a loaf of bread, a box of salt, a candle, flowers and a handmade shawl have to do with a home built by Blount County Habitat for Humanity?
For soon-to-be homeowner Kristie Bennie, 41, it means extra blessings bestowed on her during the official Habitat Home Blessing Wednesday evening. Representatives of both First United Methodist Church of Maryville (FUMC) and Blount Community Church (BCC) presented Bennie with one each, and explained the meaning. Both churches sponsored Bennie’s home, sending volunteer workers to the site on the corner of Harper Drive and Wright Road, Maryville each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday building the home.
Bennie, a single mom to daughter, Jaime, 13, said Habitat provided her a hand up when they selected her as a potential homeowner more than a year ago. She quickly pointed out that a Habitat home isn’t free.
“Habitat is helping me, making it possible to have a house payment I can afford,” she said. “Mortgage payments on a Habitat home are 30-year loans.”
Bennie said she and her daughter had lived in an apartment for seven years and she was ready to better herself. Getting accepted into the Habitat program meant a lot of work, she said. Both Bennie and her daughter attended budgeting classes and put in more than 350 hours of “sweat equity” — meaning she and her daughter had to put in time helping build homes belonging to other Habitat homeowners, as well as working on her own. Wanting her daughter to learn budgeting and how to take care of the home, Bennie said Jaime attended classes alongside her mother.
“I wasn’t brought up thinking that kind of stuff was important,” Bennie said of the classes. “She might not have understood half of it, but every little bit helps. She was alongside me on the job site, too.”
At Wednesday’s dedication, Habitat officials presented her with many gifts — gardening tools, books, a family Bible and a hand-made quilt. Dain Baker presented Bennie with the keys to the new three-bedroom home. Bennie also received a photograph of a poem several students wrote on the sub-flooring of a previous Habitat home. The poem blessed the home. Habitat CEO Tony Gibbons said he makes sure each homeowner now receives a copy.
In Bennie’s dedication speech, she thanked all of the volunteers who helped make her house a home, even when they, like her, dragged themselves out of bed on a Saturday morning to work.
“You have made a difference in our lives,” she added. Though she tried not to cry, tears found their way out as Bennie recounted her experiences as she journeyed from an applicant, to a volunteer, and finally, a homeowner.
“I thank God for the wonderful experience,” she said.
Presenting Salt, Light
The event took on a life of its own when pastors Larry and Brenda Carroll of FUMC and Dain Baker of BCC took over.
The Rev. Larry Carroll of FUMC prayed a dedication prayer, and then the Rev. Brenda Carroll handed Bennie a loaf of bread, saying, “This gift of bread is a sign of our hope that you will have blessings sufficient to sustain your life and generosity sufficient to share those blessings with others.” The Carrolls are co-pastors of FUMC.
Angie Cates of BCC presented a box of salt, saying that the home would be “seasoned with sufficient love and respect, and that it may spill over and add flavor to the world around you.”
The unique dedication continued, with Phil Large of FUMC, with a candle, “where hope burns bright;” Hilary Storie of BCC presenting a pot of mums, “in all the seasons of live you will find plentiful cause for joy and celebration.”
Brenda Carroll wrapped the final gift — a prayer shawl made by a FMUC church member — around both Kristie and Jaime, saying it is the churches’ hope that “you will be surrounded in this dwelling by God’s love and by the love of your church.”
Approximately 100 people attended the dedication, including several political dignitaries and a group of out-of-state college students currently working on another Blount County Habitat for Humanity home.
Bennie will get to move in within a week or two, after the official mortgage closing.