Offering A Hand-Up, Not A Handout
By Anna Robertson Ham
Habitat for Humanity Williamson-Maury (HFHWM) is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization and ecumenical Christian ministry that partners with local families in need and donors to build stable, safe homes and sell them with an affordable mortgage. HFHWM was fully incorporated as an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International in December of 1992. They have since built over 290 homes in Williamson and Maury Counties and continue to build ten to sixteen new homes per year.
HFHWM offers a hand-up, not a handout. They build and sell energy-efficient, craftsman-style homes to qualifying families. Habitat serves as both the general contractor and the mortgage lender on all the houses. Habitat brings together sponsors and volunteers to fund and build each home in partnership with families. More than seventy percent of the work done on each house is done through volunteer labor, and HFHWM receives donations of money and materials from individuals, companies and groups who are committed to supporting Habitat. A volunteer Family Selection Committee qualifies applicants for the Homeownership Program.
Families must meet three basic criteria to qualify for a Habitat home. They must demonstrate need by living in substandard or overcrowded living conditions, by paying more than thirty percent of their income on housing, or by living in subsidized housing. They must have the ability to pay. Applicants must have steady, reliable income, a credit score above 550, and a debt-to-income ratio below forty percent. They also must cooperate with the committees on all paperwork, home visits, and sweat equity, including completion of a budgeting class.
Part of the fundraising for Habitat for Humanity Williamson-Maury’s Women Build Program comes from their annual Hammers & High Heels event, which is returning to the Factory at Franklin on May 19th. The evening will feature live music, a plated dinner, photo booth fun and silent auction. This year’s theme is “Garden Party” and guests are encouraged to dress accordingly in business cocktail attire. All proceeds support Habitat for Humanity Williamson-Maury’s Women Build Program, by raising the funds to construct a home for local, single mother, Paige Wolf, and her two daughters. We had the opportunity to interview Paige to learn more about her experience with Habitat for Humanity. To say the least, it has changed her life.
See our interview with Paige below and make sure to mark your calendars for Hammers & High Heels! Learn more and get your tickets at womenbuildtn.com.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and upbringing?
My background is quite a bit different than most. I grew up in a variety of different places. Being the oldest sibling of six, I grew up taking care of my younger siblings. I was taught a lot of hard lessons at a young age and dealt with the idea of “you didn’t have to have much to survive.” I grew up in a single-wide trailer with no heat or air. In the winter, we would block off the hallway and kitchen inside and everyone would sleep on the living room floor with two small space heaters to stay warm, and when that didn’t do the trick, we would turn on all the eyes on the stove, and the oven to warm the entire trailer. Often, we would wake up with frost on the kitchen counters. When winter would get bad, we would often lose our water supply because the water lines were only six inches underground. During the summer months, we would all sleep outside on the trampoline. Most of the time temperatures would stay over 100 inside the trailer so sleeping outside was a way for us to stay cool.
How did you manage to attend college and pursue your career while also being a mother at a young age?
One word - dedication. I don’t use this word lightly. I know that most of the young mother’s life myself will struggle a little bit more than a traditional family with a husband, wife, and stable career. I know that the life I want for my daughters will not be handed to me. I know I must work hard, keep my head up, and stay focused to give all three of us the life we deserve. I have overcome so much in such a short time; I don’t plan on giving up now. I have too much to lose.
How did you find out about with Habitat for Humanity?
I had heard about it a couple of years ago and applied and was denied. It was mentioned again during a conversation with my elderly neighbor’s daughter. I applied for the second time and was denied again. I continued to work on the two reasons I was denied and took all my faith and prayers and reapplied for the third time. My prayers were answered, and I was approved on my third application. Since getting my approval, I have worked for many hours through phone calls, emails, in-office visits, zoom visits, and volunteer hours to become intertwined with everyone in the organization. Cheryl, Hannah and everyone else that we have interacted with have opened their arms and hearts and treated my children and me like family. I couldn’t ask for anything better.
What went through your mind when you learned that you would be the Women Build Partner Family?
I was very nervous. I’m the type of person who stays to myself and I do not like being the center of attention. However, knowing what the partnership looked like being the women build, I was honored to be chosen. I think my story will help other parents in similar situations to mine, or at least I hope it will.
In three words, share what this experience has been like.
Accountable. Life-Changing. Inspirational.
What are you most looking forward to with homeownership?
I’m looking forward to living in an affordable safe place to watch my children grow up. Buying a home helps secure a future not only for me but for my girls.
What motivates you to work towards building a secure financial future and being a positive role model for your daughters?
My children. They are my motivation. Growing up I saw many examples of influences that I did not want to give my children. I’m breaking generational curses and building a future. I want to leave something behind for my children to carry on. This step is only the beginning. I’m just getting started.
What advice would you give to others who may be facing similar challenges as you have in the past?
Never give up, surround yourself with people who want to grow and push you to be better. Your life is a result of the choices you make, if you don’t like your life, then you need to start making some changes.