Family story update for the Carter Work Project 2008 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Family story update for the Carter Work Project 2008

Biloxi

The Devin Johnson family

Devin Johnson, 21, and her two young daughters spent nearly two years in a FEMA trailer before moving into a subsidized housing unit. They’re anxious now to move to the next step in their post-Katrina life, in their own house. “We’re so excited,” said Johnson, who works as a lodging clerk at Keesler Air Force Base. Her youngest daughter, 1-year-old A’maiyah Lett, may be too little to really comprehend what’s going on with her family, but 4-year-old Ashaiyah Lett is well aware of the excitement surrounding their new home, her mom said. Both girls love to dance and play with other children. “I appreciate everything that everybody has done to help us get our own home,” said Johnson.

The Carietta Payton family

For Carietta Payton, 57, owning a home comes better late than never. Disabled, she lives with her 26-year-old daughter, Erica, who is also disabled, and her 14-year old grandson, Rashawn Ron. The family lost all its belongings when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their rental home. Until their new home is finished, they’re living in subsidized housing. Before and after the storm, their lives have always revolved around gospel music and church. Payton offers a simple message of thanks to the volunteers and donors who are giving new hope to her family: “Thank you for choosing my family to become a part of Habitat for Humanity and to become a first-time homebuyer!”

Pascagoula

The Albernette Davis family

Albernette Davis, 35, has been a cafeteria manager and cook for 13 years. When she’s not serving up hot meals for customers, she tends to her two children: Son Jerome, 17, plays football and video games; daughter Jer’Nique, 14, loves SpongeBob and talking on the phone with her friends. Hurricane Katrina destroyed the house where they previously lived and, since then, they’ve been battling mold and pest problems in a public housing development that is under constant repair. “It is a blessing to be able to help families get their home built,” said Davis, who has enjoyed putting in her sweat-equity hours on construction sites. “And it is a pleasure to work along with others to build your [own] home.”

Gulfport

The David Gilkey family

David Gilkey stuck around during Hurricane Katrina. Many of his neighbors are glad he did. In the hours after the storm unleashed a flood in his neighborhood, Gilkey helped families get out of their homes. He helped elderly people with their oxygen tanks. He got people on boats to make it to the Sun Suites Hotel — where he also ended up staying that first night — because, he said, “it was the driest place we could get to.” It took two days for the water to drain from his house. Gilkey, 40, immediately went to work repairing his house as best he could, but he eventually realized he would need help — the mold continued to grow and the wiring needed to be fixed. He values the work Habitat volunteers have done on his behalf, and he’s making a point to take off early each day from his job at Golden Metals during the Carter Work Project in order to work with volunteers. “If it wasn’t for all the volunteers,” he said before pausing, “man, I’m telling you, it’s just a blessing. They’re stopping their lives to come and help you. They don’t have to do this, but they do it from the heart.” During the week, volunteers will help finish installing doors and cabinets, doing the trim, and painting. Gilkey — who lives with his fiancée, Jessie Allen, 43, and his daughter, Jamayla, 7 — knows his daughter is excited about the house work, too. “She pointed to a wall in her bedroom the other day and said, ‘I painted that,’ ” he said. “She’s ready to help do it again!”

Gwendolyn Pope and John Thompson

Like many folks along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina hit, Gwendolyn Pope traveled a long, winding road to get back home. She left town before the storm hit; returned within a week; lived in a FEMA trailer; moved back into her old house after some repair work was finished; then had to move out again after the mold returned and electrical problems mounted. The end of the journey cannot come soon enough. Pope, 53, works with Veterans Affairs in Biloxi. She and her husband, John Thompson, 39, are looking forward to the Carter Work Project. Their home has been gutted and they hope the extra hands will help them finish the work remaining inside the house. And to say she’s excited to get back in is an understatement. “Oh, yes,” Pope said. “I was just talking with someone about that. I just want to get back home. That’s it. There’s nothing like home.”