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From one family to another (part 2) -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

From one family to another (part 2)


Colecia and Eric Howard, along with their children Jayvion, Jadea and Eric Jr. They are the second family to live in the first Habitat house built in Little Rock, Arkansas.
©Habitat for Humanity International/John Sims


Jadea Howard enjoys the simple freedom of playing outside at her family’s home. ©Habitat for Humanity International/John Sims


Doing work that matters

Hefner, who served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, earned a bachelor’s degree and then an MBA from the University of Arkansas.

Guzman graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in architectural studies and is now getting her master’s in sustainable development and construction at Marylhurst University in Oregon. She was among a group of architects who developed a Habitat neighborhood in Fayetteville, Arkansas, that won honors from the American Institute of Architects. She wants to design homes that are sustainable and meaningful for low-income people.

“I want to do the kind of architecture that gives back,” she says.

After their mother died, Hefner and Guzman debated what to do with the house. They had both moved on. Living in the old neighborhood was no longer an option, and it was not a good time to sell.

“When Anne passed away, we reached out to Jed and Deborah and said, ‘If we can help you in any way, just let us know,’ ” says Kelley Melhorn, chief operating officer for Habitat of Pulaski County. “And they said, ‘Our mom didn’t have much, but whatever she had, we want to give to the affiliate. If we can help another family, that’s what we want to do. The house is the only thing we have to give back.’ ”

That decision put them on the path to help Eric Howard, 23, a supply technician at Baptist Medical Center. When Howard was 14, his mother, Carmen, started volunteering for Habitat, and as soon as he was old enough, she brought him along to volunteer as well.

“I remember one particular day I was up putting on a roof, and I was thinking, ‘I would love to get me a Habitat house one day,’ ” he says. “But of course I wasn’t old enough yet.”

When he and his mother drove around town, she would point out the Habitat houses, including the house where Anne Hefner lived, the house that one day would be his.

Another family’s journey begins

By the time Howard qualified for a Habitat home, Hefner’s house needed a lot of rehab work. Howard put in his sweat-equity hours repairing it. He loved every minute of it, except for burrowing into the crawl space under the house to lay down plastic sheeting to protect against moisture. He’s not fond of bugs, and he felt like he was on his own personal version of “Fear Factor,” but he did it anyway.

Howard got a chance to shake Hefner’s hand at the dedication of his home.

“We had a good talk,” Howard says. “He just said he was putting it in my hands.”

A year after he moved in, Howard got married. His wife, Colecia, already had two children of her own, Jayvion, now 11, and Jadea, 4. Together, they had a baby, Eric Jr., born in May 2012. The 22-year-old house now shelters a family of five, providing a hand up for another generation.

“It’s what our mom would have wanted,” Hefner says.

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