Childhood innocence quickly disappeared for Alverna Walker. When Walker’s mother passed away, Walker, only 7 years old at the time, became “Mom” to her siblings. At age 13, Walker and her siblings moved in with a cousin in search of a stable home environment.
Although moving provided a safe place to live, Walker now shared a small house with 16 other family members. Walker almost added to that number when she became pregnant at age 16, but she decided it was time to make a life of her own and moved into her late great grandfather’s house.
“It was like a shack, with no real running water and bathrooms, indoor toilets,” Walker says. “I started working and pursuing and looking hard for the things that I needed.”
In 1981, living with three daughters in her great grandfather’s house, Walker applied for a Habitat house. Habitat was a little-known program then, but Walker had seen her cousin work for and move into a safe, affordable house and improve her life. Walker became the second Sea Island Habitat for Humanity homeowner.
As her girls grew up on Habitat Boulevard, Walker again seized the opportunity to make a better life for her daughters Katina, Bridget and Annette. She encouraged them to take advantage of a quiet home by studying hard and succeeding in school.
“Your environment is who you are,” Walker says. “The environment that you live in plays a big part on your children and yourself. My children did great in school …and I really feel it was because of the environment. If they had to struggle with no running water and all that, that would affect them somewhere down the line.”
Walker’s girls desired to continue in higher education, and it was her Habitat house that finally provided the funds to do so. Walker had paid off her mortgage in fewer than the 20 years allotted, and she chose to refinance. The appreciation of her house paid for each of her daughters to continue studying after high school.
Walker shines with pride when she speaks of her children’s accomplishments, their marriages and her grandchildren. But there is another source of pride for Walker.
“I always wanted to go to college,” she says. “I work for the county. I have a good job. Those are some of the things I can look back and say God has truly blessed me in.”
Walker is an ordained pastor and went back to college for a Master’s degree in early childhood education while working with drug-addicted babies.
Looking back on her first 16 years of life, Walker says with hope, “Yes, I had a hard life, but all that worked together for my good, it really did.”
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