Baynes Family To Become Habitat's 100,000th Homeowners
"I have a blister right here on my palm. It's not a big blister, but, still, I don't ever want it to go away. I want to feel it and rub it on my son's face and tell him 'this represents the work your dad and I have done to make things better; it represents all of the volunteers who have helped us become homeowners.'"
So said Mercedes Baynes during a press conference Monday at 233 W. 134th St. in Harlem. Facing an audience and T.V cameras, both still as lampposts, Baynes offered her gratitude to those who have helped her family establish a new level of stability:
"I'm so excited, so thrilled, so honored," she said, her voice quaking with emotion.
Her excitement is understandable. The family's current apartment has a leaky ceiling and mice, and they have to tape the windows to keep them from falling in when the wind blows. Last year, their 5-year-old son saw a dead body after a shooting in the neighborhood. For the Bayneses, the security and peace of mind that can come with owning a Habitat house may be as valuable as the dry ceiling and solid walls.
"Work, commitment, ownership," she continued, pinpointing three of the reasons volunteers turned out in droves this week to build with families in Harlem and in Brooklyn. Thousands of volunteers will build 22 houses in New York, a far cry from the 42 partners who accompanied President and Mrs. Carter during the first Carter work project 16 years ago.
At the week's close, the Bayneses will become Habitat's 100,000th homeowner family, and their newly painted walls will echo with the sounds of a celebration shared not only in New York, but no doubt in Sumter County, Ga., Jacksonville, Fla., and around the world as well. Concurrent Jimmy Carter Work Project builds are occurring in Jacksonville and Sumter County and Habitat affiliates worldwide are building houses as part of Habitat's annual Building on Faith observance.
On hand this week to commemorate this milestone event were New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, news anchor Tom Brokaw, award-winning performers and internationally known faith leaders. In their remarks and songs many employed the same terms: selfless, generous, permanence, stability, gratitude, community. Words can hardly express the transforming power of the Habitat building experience. But it's heard in the laughter of volunteers, the handshakes of donors and on the trembling lips of a mother for whom blisters are a blessing.