Belinda and Earl Phillips moved from a damaged mobile home into a fully accessible Habitat house with their son, Blake.
Belinda and Earl Phillips have learned a lot from their 15-year-old son, Blake, who has spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spinal column. “He never gives up,” said Earl, who is on permanent disability with rheumatoid arthritis.
Persistence obviously runs in the family.
Belinda worked as a school janitor before deciding she wanted to work with students full-time. She took a job as a teacher’s assistant in middle school―which paid less than the cleaning job―and started taking college classes on the side. In 2008―the same month work began on her family’s Habitat home—she received her associate’s degree. In 2009, she earned her bachelor’s degree from William Carey University.
“I prayed over it before I started,” Belinda said. “It was the right thing for the family.”
Belinda and Earl have been married more than 20 years. For most of their married life, they’ve lived in a mobile home parked on the three-acre site of Earl’s parents’ house.
“They’ve always been close by,” said Earl’s mother, Betty. “We don’t know any different.”
The aging trailer was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, which was mostly wind-driven rain by the time it reached Lucedale. The storm damaged the wood deck and destroyed the ramp that allowed son Blake access in his wheelchair. The ramp has been rebuilt, but the steep angle makes it impossible for Blake to maneuver without help.
“If he wanted to get in or out, he needed somebody to go with him,” his mother said. “He couldn’t do it by himself.”
Blake has defied such limits his whole life, his parents are quick to say. After multiple surgeries, he is able to stand by himself for short periods, and he taught himself to swim.
“He’s taught us all a lot,” said Earl.
At the 2008 Carter Work Project, volunteers constructed a house just a few hundred feet from the Phillips’ old trailer. Surrounded by old-growth trees and sprawling, open lawns, the new house sits directly behind the neat red house where Earl’s parents live.
“We are so, so blessed to have this house,” said Belinda.