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Try, try again

A Habitat homeowner in Louisville, Ky., employs persistence to build a house—and new skills.
By David Winfrey

Twice Delores Fitch had taken a Habitat for Humanity application back to her apartment, and twice she was afraid to fill it out.

“In a way, scared of the responsibility that I wouldn’t be able to do it,” Fitch recalled. “I said, ‘I wouldn’t be able to pay the light bill. I won’t be able to pay the water bill.’”

But the frustration of being moved several times in government housing, combined with her desire to build a stable environment for three grandchildren living with her, drove her to return her third application.

“I did go back and took my application and talked with Miss Anne (assistant director of family services). They said, ‘Come on, Delores. We’ll work with you. We’re family and we’ll stay with you.’”

Miss Dee, as she is known, began taking Habitat’s life skills classes, including budgeting and home maintenance courses. She worked on Habitat houses, worked in the Habitat office and did other jobs to earn the 400 hours of “sweat equity” all partner families must have to qualify to buy a Habitat home.

“I found out I could make my hours cooking,” she said, describing how she, her son, and a friend prepared meals for Habitat construction teams.

Today, Miss Dee continues to use the skills learned during her home maintenance courses. Immediately after moving in to her Habitat house, she used her housewarming gift of a new drill to install pulls on her kitchen cabinets. Later, she corrected a leaky faucet all by herself. “I was able to do it because I had been to a class,” she said. That tough budgeting course has helped as well: “I never realized that class would come in as handy as it has.”

She uses her budgeting skills to pay bills, including the 20-year, zero-interest mortgage for her house.

Miss Dee is proud of her beautiful yard, her home and the impact it has on the three grandchildren who live with her.

“They just seem to be doing much better now that we have a place of our own.”