Home is the key to intergenerational wealth

As a public school employee for 37 years, Donyelle understands the importance of education. She has worked tirelessly to instill a desire for learning in each of her five children, but working a full-time job while being a widowed mother left little time for Donyelle to pursue her own higher education. To support her two girls and three boys, she dropped out of community college.

Finding a decent, affordable place to call home was an ongoing challenge. Donyelle and her children were priced out of a townhome when the rent started increasing every three months. In search of affordable housing, the family moved across town, but their two-bedroom rental was small and had mice. “We were really in need of better housing,” Donyelle says.

Pushing off going back to school, Donyelle feared that she’d fail to leave anything behind for her children.

Partnering with Habitat for greater opportunity

A friend introduced Donyelle to Habitat for Humanity, and she was soon building her house alongside her future neighbors. She relished the time building her dream home — and building lasting friendships that would root her in her new neighborhood.

Donyelle and her three boys — her two oldest daughters had already left home — moved into their Habitat house in June 2009. She said she felt “pure bliss” walking through her door for the first time.

Donyelle's son kisses her head as they embrace in her yard.

Home as a springboard for higher education

In August 2022, three months after her youngest son, Chance, graduated from college, Donyelle returned to school, earning her associate’s degree in general studies from a local community college.

Donyelle says homeownership was a catalyst for finishing her degree. “I wouldn’t have completed my education if I was not a homeowner,” she says. “I really feel that me being a homeowner, me being stable, me having a foundation was the basis for me being able to go back and complete my education and get my degree.”

“I think that it’s important that my children know that I’ve worked very hard all my life. To have a stable job, to have a stable home, it means a lot,” she continues. “It can take you far. It can give you advantages.”

Building intergenerational wealth through homeownership

Donyelle has remarried, and her husband has three children of his own. The couple love hosting their big, blended family. Donyelle, who calls herself a “fun grandmother,” finds unmatched pleasure in watching her six grandchildren play in her living room. It’s even sweeter knowing that she will be able to pass down the home that has been their key to a more secure future.

Donyelle says her home has provided the family with “a sense of pride and belonging.” Even as her children have grown up and built homes and families of their own, they know that the doors of their mother’s two-story Habitat house — where the words “Practice Kindness” adorn the front porch — will always be open.

“It’s a place where, no matter where they go in the world, they know they could always come home,” Donyelle says.