The Madeline Watts family -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The Madeline Watts family

Madeline Watts, a native of New Orleans, is an admissions technician at an addiction recovery facility for teenagers.

‘This is what I’ve been working for’

Madeline Watts, a native of New Orleans, was living in an apartment and working at Charity Hospital when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Once the storm had passed, the roof of her apartment had collapsed, and her job had disintegrated.

“There was no reason for me to go back,” said Watts, 40.

Watts relocated to Baton Rouge and now works as an admissions technician at Springs of Recovery, a facility for adolescents who are addicted to drugs and alcohol.

A precarious set of stairs leads up to Watts’ current two-story apartment in a run-down complex. She shares the space with daughter Deanna, who attends Southern University, and two grandchildren by another daughter, who was killed in a tragic domestic murder-suicide two years ago.

Angel, who was only 6 months old when her mother died, will be 3 in July. Her brother, Jalen, is 5. Jalen is impaired in his right eye, the scar of a gunshot wound still visible in his head. He is autistic and doesn’t talk.

“They keep me so busy,” said Watts.

In April, pre-construction begins on a Habitat house for Watts, as part of the 25th annual Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

“This house is going to mean a lot for my family,” said Watts. “The biggest difference will be a backyard. A kid as active as Jalen needs to be outside.”

The new house site is about 35 minutes away from the family’s current quarters. Five houses have already been completed nearby, and Watts has already met all those families.

“This process is so great, because you really get to meet people,” Watts said. “Every time I go out to the site, I am just amazed—at the volunteers, the other homeowners, everybody. Everybody is just so friendly and bubbly.”

Watts has earned more than 100 hours of sweat equity already, serving on painting and caulking crews on various build sites along with helping out at Habitat’s ReStore and at the local food bank.

She proudly shows a visitor a piece of mail from Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge addressed to Madeline Watts, homeowner.

“This is wonderful,” she said. “This is what I’ve been working for.”

Angel, meanwhile, has her own, age-appropriate way of celebrating her family’s first real home: “I want a Dora [the Explorer] lamp!”

Affiliate information:
Baton Rouge, Louisiana: 13 houses for Carter Project 2008

Louisiana’s capital city, Baton Rouge, sits on a natural bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, about 80 miles east of New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans in 2005, hundreds of thousands of evacuees sought refuge in Baton Rouge. By some estimates, the city’s population more than doubled temporarily.

Since its founding in 1989, the affiliate has built nearly 200 houses in the eight parishes it serves: East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Point Coupee, East and West Feliciana, Livingston and Ascension.

For this year’s Carter Project, Habitat of Greater Baton Rouge is building 13 houses.