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Shelter after a storm -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Shelter after a storm

Joey and Kristen Maddox and their children have settled happily into their Habitat home in Covington, Louisiana. When the house was being built, in
2007, Jourdon was 8; Jakob was 7; twins Ella and Elaine were 3; and baby Jack was waiting to be born. ©2007 Habitat for Humanity/Ezra Millstein

Five years after rebuilding their lives, a Louisiana family thrives
By Teresa K. Weaver


Joey Maddox and his daughter, Ella, have a little fun on the
construction site that eventually became their home. The family
moved into the house in late 2007.
©2007 Habitat for Humanity/Ezra Millstein


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Why we build

Watching the news coverage of Superstorm Sandy was particularly wrenching for people who have been through similar disasters. Every hurricane, every flood, every loss of life and property is a reminder not only of the unbridled power of Mother Nature, but of the amazing resilience of people.

Joey and Kristen Maddox were among thousands of families displaced after 2005’s double-punch of hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the U.S. Gulf Coast. For two years after that storm, the Maddoxes moved from temporary shelter with relatives to overpriced apartments. In late 2007, they and their five children moved into a Habitat for Humanity house in Covington, La.

Now, five years later, the Maddoxes feel a special bond with the families in New York and New Jersey who are just beginning the process of rebuilding their lives.

“Things get better,” Joey Maddox said. “They get a lot better.”

For the Maddoxes, an affordable house was the first step back to some sense of normalcy.

“The house has been God-sent since the minute we moved in,” Maddox said.

‘A humongous sense of ownership’

Once the family qualified for homeownership with Habitat for Humanity St. Tammany West, Maddox began earning his sweat-equity hours by volunteering in the Habitat ReStore. Within a few months, he was hired to work full time in the store that sells furniture and other home goods to support the Habitat ministry.

Just recently, Maddox was promoted to procurement coordinator at the Habitat ReStore.

Kristen, meanwhile, finished her degree in marketing and finance at Southeastern Louisiana University — with honors — after moving into the house. The economy has been as tough on the Maddoxes as on everybody else, and Kristen was downsized out of a position before landing a holiday job stocking shelves at Target on the overnight shift.

Throughout, Maddox said, the house has been the family’s anchor.

“It has given us a humongous sense of ownership,” he said. “Before, we were always worried about rent and where we were going to go if we couldn’t come up with the $1,200.”

“There’s a significant difference in the mortgage,” he said, “and I know as long as I make those payments, no one can just say, ‘OK, I want it back. You have to move.’ ”

A better quality of life for the whole family

The children may be a little too young to appreciate the concept of homeownership, Maddox said, but they understand how different their lives are now than when they didn’t have a house.

Jourdon, the oldest, turned 13 in December. Jakob, 12, is an honor roll student and a soccer star; he spends many weekends traveling with the team. Twin sisters Ella and Elaine, just toddlers when the house was built, are 8 now. Elaine shares her brother Jakob’s passion for soccer, and Ella takes after-school classes in art and cooking. Little brother Jack is 5.

“The quality of their lives has improved so much,” Maddox said. “We’re able to keep the kids in the extracurriculars that we wouldn’t have been able to afford if we still rented.”

The affordability has reduced much of the stress inherent in a family of seven, Maddox said.

“If the car breaks down, I have resources to fix it,” he said. “I don’t have to stress out about money like I used to. That allows us to provide a better quality of life for our children, and that means the world to us.”

The Maddox home is in a community called Faith Village. In the aftermath of Katrina, it wasn’t always easy to keep the faith, Maddox said. But now, safe at home, he’s eager to spread the message that life does get back to normal.

“Sandy really does bring back a lot of memories,” he said. “I can really sympathize with everybody who’s been affected. I know that feeling. Being powerless is a horrible feeling. But it doesn’t last forever.”