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From one family to another -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

From one family to another

All grown up, one Habitat homeowner’s children pass along the blessings of a house


In 1990, Anne Hefner and her two young children, Jed and Deborah, moved out of a run-down, unheated rental house into their own home.
Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Pulaski County


At his house dedication ceremony in 2009, Eric Howard shakes the hand of Jed Hefner, who had grown up in the same Habitat house.
Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Pulaski County


By Phil Kloer

Three years ago, Jed Hefner stood in the front yard of the Habitat home where he had grown up, preparing to turn it over to a new owner, as the lyrics of Miranda Lambert’s song “The House that Built Me” played in his head.

And up those stairs, in that little back bedroom /
Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar.
And I bet you didn’t know under that live oak /
My favorite dog is buried in the yard.

“I had the thought that another family would be able to build those memories in the same place I did,” Hefner recalls.

Hefner’s mother, Anne, purchased the home in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1990. He and his sister, Deborah Hefner Guzman, spent most of their childhoods there before going to college and moving away. When their mother died in 2008, Hefner and Guzman decided to donate the house to Habitat for Humanity so that another family could experience the security and safety they had enjoyed.

And so, in 2009, Hefner found himself at his second Habitat house dedication ceremony, this time welcoming Eric Howard to the home that had once been his.

Hefner had stood in that same yard 19 years earlier, when he was 7 years old and about to move out of a run-down, unheated rental house. It was a chilly day in December, he remembers, and in a video of the event, he’s not wearing a coat. He thinks he probably didn’t own one.

‘Little things make a big difference’

Before connecting with Habitat, his mother had struggled financially. At one point, she and her two children lived in a crime-ridden apartment complex where it was unsafe to play outside. For a while, they lived in “a house that was literally falling apart,” Guzman recalls. Thieves broke in more than once. They had no heat and shared one bedroom, where they cuddled together for warmth in winter.

Then on Dec. 20, 1990, the Hefners moved into their new Habitat house. It was a big deal for more than just their family; it was the first house built in Little Rock by Habitat for Humanity of Pulaski County. And because it was the first Habitat home in the state capital, TV news stations covered the dedication, which was attended by then-Gov. Bill Clinton.

At 28, Hefner is now a successful analyst for the consulting firm Accenture in Indianapolis, Indiana. He has an MBA, a new fiancée and plans to buy his first home. He knows that a lot of his success is thanks to that Habitat house.

“You can’t just say I got a Habitat house and therefore I got an MBA,” Hefner says. “It doesn’t work that way. But little things make a big difference in the way you define yourself — your identity as a person. Like having a place to study. Not having to worry about finding enough blankets so that you don’t freeze. Just having safety and security. Those fundamentals are the building blocks.

“A house doesn’t just mean a roof over your head.”

His sister agrees.

“We could go outside and have a yard to play in,” Guzman says. “We could have our own rooms — that was kind of a big thing. Instead of worrying about what I couldn’t do, it allowed me to open doors and go outside and interact with people.

“If you feel safe and secure, you can focus more on other things to improve yourself. The security lets you be a kid and focus on the stuff you need to focus on, like your education.”

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