Habitat’s milestone house makes history
Homeowners Collin and Mercedes Baynes attend the dedication of their home, the 100,000th worldwide Habitat home.
In 2000, Habitat for Humanity International made history in New York, Florida and Georgia as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn led thousands of volunteers to build 157 Habitat homes in partnership with families in need.
President and Mrs. Carter joined the struggle to resolve New York City's housing crisis by working in a restored apartment building in Harlem. In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, volunteers and partner families finished a new apartment building.
"I have a blister right here on my palm. It's not a big blister, but still, I don't ever want it to go away. I want to feel it and rub it on my son's face and tell him 'this represents the work your dad and I have done to make things better; it represents all of the volunteers who have helped us become homeowners.'"
So said Mercedes Baynes during a press conference in Harlem. Facing an audience and TV cameras, Baynes offered her gratitude to those who have helped her family establish a new level of stability.
"I'm so excited, so thrilled, so honored," she said, her voice quaking with emotion.
Her excitement is understandable. The family's current apartment has a leaky ceiling and mice, and they have to tape the windows to keep them from falling in when the wind blows. Last year, their 5-year-old son saw a dead body after a shooting in the neighborhood. For the Bayneses, the security and peace of mind that can come with owning a Habitat house may be as valuable as the dry ceiling and solid walls.
"Work, commitment, ownership," she continued, pinpointing three of the reasons volunteers turned out in droves to build with families in Harlem and in Brooklyn. Thousands of volunteers built 22 houses in New York.
The Bayneses are Habitat's 100,000th homeowner family, and their newly-painted walls echo with the sounds of a celebration shared not only in New York, but no doubt in Sumter County, Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida, and around the world as well. Concurrent Jimmy Carter Work Project builds occurred in Jacksonville and Sumter County, and Habitat affiliates worldwide built houses as part of Habitat's annual Building on Faith observance.
On hand to commemorate this milestone event were New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, news anchor Tom Brokaw, award-winning performers and internationally known faith leaders. In their remarks and songs, many employed the same terms: selfless, generous, permanence, stability, gratitude, community. Words can hardly express the transforming power of the Habitat building experience. But it's heard in the laughter of volunteers, the handshakes of donors and on the trembling lips of a mother for whom blisters are a blessing.