2000: Building a solid foundation in Jacksonville

What Paula Kelsor remembers most about that week was the atmosphere of excitement and the many volunteers who came from all over. “It was wonderful and exciting, and you know, Jimmy Carter was in town. I remember we all gathered around to hear him give his speech, and it was really great,” she says. “It was a good experience, meeting new people and getting to live in a house that you were part of constructing.”

Kelsor says she and her Habitat neighbors have developed a sense of community over the years. “I’ve seen the community grow, and families that initially started out here are pretty much all or mostly still here,” she says. “Their children have all grown up. They have college behind them or have children of their own. Having a good foundation helps you move forward. In school or in life with your family, it all goes back to just having a place to call home so you can set roots so you can blossom.”

Her own son, Fergio, has certainly blossomed, aided by Habitat Jacksonville’s Hicks Scholarship Program. A college graduate who studied abroad in China and Japan, he now works as a case manager with Catholic Charities, helping refugees establish a life in the United States. He also volunteers with the Hicks program, mentoring Habitat Jacksonville kids so they, too, can qualify for a college scholarship.

“In my wildest dreams, I would have never imagined raising a child who received the opportunity to study abroad and to do so well,” she says. “I’m really quite proud of him. Quite proud, indeed. He’s simply amazing in everything.”

For Kelsor, it goes back to Habitat. “If I never would’ve received the chance to be a homeowner, he never would’ve gotten the chance to receive the scholarship to go to college.

“Being able to raise my son in a home and then him being able to give back the way he is now,” she says, is one of the best things about her Habitat home.

ALSO IN 2000: In addition to the 100 houses built in Jacksonville, Fla., Habitat volunteers worked on 22 units in New York’s Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods and built 35 houses in the Georgia towns of Americus and Plains — President Carter’s hometown.