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Making an investment in humankind (part 2) -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Making an investment in humankind (part 2)

‘You feel almost worthless’


For Tony and Jill Collins, one of the little pleasures of owning a home is having a table where they can play games. Photo by Gib Ford


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It took a toll on me as a man. It’s my job to provide for my family, and I felt like I wasn’t living up to my responsibility. You feel almost worthless at times because your family is in the situation it’s in.

We lived that way for nine months, and then we got the chance to move in with my cousin, his wife and their three kids.

I hadn’t heard of Habitat, but Jill had. She applied, and they came and interviewed us, and we qualified for a house. We were really blessed. And Habitat didn’t just put us in a house; they taught us how to be homeowners, how to plan for the future.

The Habitat affiliate in Jackson was planning to build a house in a blitz build over just three days, using only professional contractors instead of volunteers like Habitat usually does. The affiliate felt we would be good candidates for this new project. Our house was built in October 1997 in 44½ hours.

We didn’t own any furniture — just one bedroom set. We were prepared to move in with just that. But one of the major contributors heard about us and decided to make an impromptu furniture delivery. So at the moment we were cutting the ribbon for the house, Miskelly Furniture had a truck pull up. Miskelly filled every room in the house with brand new furniture.

Habitat requires you to put in “sweat equity,” but since our house was built quickly using all professionals, we got our sweat-equity hours by working on other people’s homes, which was a real blessing. To get a chance to share that experience with someone else, to drive down the street and see someone’s home and know I was a part of that, I think that was the great part of sweat equity.

Fifteen years later, Jill and I still live in our house. We have a home-based ministry, From the Heart, where we help people who are struggling with different aspects of life. We nourish them and help restore their faith in God.

Owning our own home has made all the difference. I attribute my sons’ academic success to us having a Habitat roof over our heads. But the biggest impact on them was helping them realize the joy that you can have in helping someone else, and knowing that perfect strangers can have an impact on your life.