Giving thanks for a brand-new house
Habitat for Humanity helps hard-working mom realize dream of home ownership
BY PENNY DICKERSON
The Thanksgiving holiday has taken on a heightened sense of gratefulness for New Smyrna resident Angela Marshall. The single mother of five is on the path to home ownership thanks to Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit Christian housing organization founded on the conviction that everyone should have a decent, safe, affordable place to live.
On Nov. 17, Marshall and two of her children, Arkeem Glass, 15, and Alicia Smiley, 5, moved into their new three-bedroom, two-bath spacious home surrounded by beautiful landscaping that Marshall herself helped lay sod to complete. On Nov. 12, an official community dedication was held.
“If you had told me seven years ago that God would have blessed me and my family with my own home, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Marshall told the Daytona Times. “ I am grateful to God for everything I have. A roof over my head, everything. I’m just grateful.”
Habitat’s history started in Georgia
Habitat for Humanity has been a leading agent of change in addressing the issues of poverty housing since its 1976 inception. What began as the ministry of Milliard and Linda Fuller in Americus, Ga. has expanded into a national initiative through the works of former president Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.
In 1984, the Carters embraced the organization as a personal venture and garnered visibility that spread nationwide. The organization has since expanded to international stature and built or repaired over one million homes, serving more than five million people worldwide from as far away as Africa to the Middle East.
The organization’s homeownership concept is based on the idea that all homes would be built at no profit and there would be no interest charged on the loans. All construction costs are financed by a revolving fund called “The Fund for Humanity.”
The fund’s money would come from the new homeowners’ house payments, no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fund-raising activities. Local churches, community organizations, family and friends collectively join forces together to tackle a significant social problem – decent and affordable housing for all.
A Daytona Beach native, Marshall is a 1991 graduate of Miami’s South Dade Senior High School where her mother relocated. Following brief enrollment at Miami Dade Community College, she began employment with Winn-Dixie, a local supermarket serving America’s southeastern region.
“I started part time in Miami in the seafood department and advanced to a deli and bakery manager,” said Marshall, who has held posts in Key Largo and Daytona Beach Shores. She is currently manager of the seafood department at the Port Orange location.
A dignified upgrade
Marshall says she and her family have previously lived in residences that accepted U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 vouchers, which are distributed based on income. The latter became a challenge when her daughter’s father lost his job and child support ceased.
Marshall no longer qualified for vouchers due to her employment salary, which still wasn’t enough to support her and two younger children. Her older sons – Andre Glass, 21, and Anthony Glass Sr., 23 – are both gainfully employed and self-sufficient.
“We were living in New Smyrna in an apartment complex called New Port Sound Place and my rent was $752,” Marshall shared. “A friend recommended the first- time homeowners program through the Daytona Beach Housing Authority, which led to Habitat for Humanity. My pending 20-year mortgage is expected to be in the $588 per month range.”
Persistence and sweat
At Habitat for Humanity, “sweat equity” is defined as a new homeowner investing in their home or one for another family. It’s not a form of payment, but an opportunity to work alongside volunteers who give their time to bring to life a family’s dream of owning a home.
According to Marshall, she was required to contribute 350 hours of sweat equity prior to qualifying for her home, which could only be completed on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Additionally, potential residents were required to invest 100 hours towards the building of their own home and 100 hours toward that of another residence. No stranger to hard work, Marshall surpassed the requirement and ultimately invested 376 hours.
“It took me three months to complete my sweat equity because I was determined to qualify and move in my home in six months,” Marshall explained.
“You have to be 16 years old to work on the construction site, but my son Arkeem received four hours of credit for babysitting his younger sister, and the program matched his duty hour for hour.
I set an early goal to acquire 24 hours per week, and on my two days off from Winn-Dixie, I’d work on a construction site or in the Habitat for Humanity ReStore,” Marshall added. Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of the retail price.
The additional months for Marshall were spent volunteering and attending educational classes to earn a certificate for homeowner buyers. Marshall also was taught life skills in financial saving, budgeting and the nuances of home insurance.
Within six months – from application to receiving keys – Marshall was able to move into her home complete with a garage and amenities she’d only dreamed of one day calling her own.
“It is awesome, and I love my kitchen,” said Marshall, who marveled at the spacious cabinet space and custom floor tile.
“I have a dishwasher, washer and dryer, and a walk-in shower so that if down the line I become disabled, I can wheel a wheelchair right into the shower. It is such a luxury to have a walk-in shower,” added Marshall.
While she describes herself as shy, Marshall’s personality bursts with flavor in the kitchen. For Thanksgiving, she will be serving up a multicultural feast comprised of recipes and delicacies acquired from her Winn-Dixie deli days in Miami.
“I love to cook and this Thanksgiving I’m preparing shrimp fried rice, collard greens, turkey, ham, oxtails with Spanish-mixed vegetables, three cheesecakes and 12 sweet potato pies,” said Marshall, whose guests were to include all of her children and parents, who will each be taking home multiple pies.
“My kids had a Spanish babysitter in Miami and the first two didn’t learn English until they were 3 so they are very used to Hispanic culture,” she noted.
Learner and leader
“I’ve learned through this whole program how to appreciate what it means to both build and own a home,” said Marshall. “I don’t want to just stop because my house is built after the holidays. I want to give three days or so on construction sites or the Habitat ReStore to help others get their home too.”
According to Marshall, her kids see her as a hard-working, military-oriented, African-American woman who has demonstrated to all three of her sons how to earn honest money. Marshall was the first of nine children in her family to own a home and doesn’t see a lack of college education as a barrier to career success.
“My two oldest sons were each employed by Winn-Dixie while they were still in high school,” said Marshall.
“Andre was the saver and when he was just 11 or 12 years old he mowed grass, washed cars and had his own clientele. He was getting $50 for washing and waxing a Hummer SUV,” she added.
“They each learned early how to pay for their own school clothes. I tell my kids that success doesn’t start or stop at going to college. If they become a doctor, lawyer or policeman, that’s fine, but the important thing is that they are able to take care of themselves. That is enough for me. If they are productive in the community, that is what being successful means.’’