Debra Boyd Brown: ‘Building that porch was just a start’ -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Debra Boyd Brown: ‘Building that porch was just a start’

Debra Boyd Brown, 39, has worked for 12 years in the MRI department at University Medical Center.


Debra Boyd Brown and her two sons share a two-bedroom apartment in Clinton, Mississippi, a long drive away from her job at University Medical Center in Jackson. Neither the drive nor the hefty rent bothers her most, she said. Rather, it is the persistent, inexplicable pool of water in the middle of the kitchen floor.

“There is always a puddle there,” she said. “I clean it up every day, and every day it shows up again.”

For six years, Brown has tried to get the landlord to address the mysterious leak.

Brown, 39, is a patient services coordinator in the MRI department at University Medical Center, where she has worked for 12 years. Her son Stacy, 18, wants to study architecture in college; and Ke’Shaun, who just turned 9 in April, is interested in toys and cars and basketball, in any order.

As part of this year’s Carter Project, the Brown family will see construction started on their new home in Virden Addition, a neighborhood already transformed by nearly a dozen neatly painted Habitat houses.

“I am so excited,” Brown said, still wearing her hospital scrub suit as she surveys her lot one recent evening. “If I could move tomorrow, I would have the U-Hauls lined up.”

Brown grew up in this neighborhood, about five blocks away from the site where her new house will be. Like many inner-city communities of Jackson, the area has struggled in recent years with all the quality-of-life issues that accompany poverty.

“When I get off work, I make it my business to come down through here,” said Brown, newly vigilant as a homeowner. “And sometimes early in the morning, I come here. I just want to see what the area is like, and who’s hanging out.”

Habitat’s presence in the neighborhood has brought hope to many residents, several of whom stop by to congratulate Brown and welcome her to the community. She also has a close friend in the neighborhood: Markeba Cavett just moved into her Habitat house around the corner.

Brown has racked up about 60 hours of sweat equity so far, with the help of her eldest son. The aspiring architect helped build a porch for another Habitat homeowner.

“I was so proud of him,” she says. “I always tell him, ‘There’s more to life than shooting a basketball or getting on a rap label. Do something constructive.’ Since he wants to be an architect, building that porch was just a start for him.”

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Jackson, Mississippi: 25 houses for Carter Project 2008

In the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson put its motto into action, as “The City of Grace and Benevolence.” Thousands of evacuees from the Gulf Coast who sought refuge in Jackson were greeted with an outpouring of support from the city’s government, civic organizations and faith communities.

Habitat for Humanity/Metro Jackson, like many affiliates throughout the Gulf Coast and well inland, stepped up an already bustling construction schedule to accommodate even more people in desperate need of affordable housing. The affiliate built 41 houses with Jackson partner families in 2006 and 33 last year; it’s on track to build 35 by the end of 2008.

Also, the affiliate’s Hancock County Project delivered resources and building skills where it was most needed immediately after the hurricanes—to Bay St. Louis and Waveland. Since the incorporation of Bay-Waveland Habitat for Humanity in January of 2008, HFH/Metro Jackson is refocusing its efforts closer to home.

For this year’s Carter Project, the Jackson affiliate will build 25 houses, including several in a neighborhood called Virden Addition, just a few blocks from the modest home where civil rights leader Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963.