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Families help break ground on new Habitat for Humanity homes
Dennis Machida, construction supervisor for Habitat for Humanity of Hall County, softens up the dirt Sunday for the groundbreaking of a Habitat house on Cooley Drive. - photo by Tom Reed

Five local church groups joined families in a groundbreaking ceremony Sunday for two new Habitat for Humanity homes.

Under the guidance of the Rev. Doug Dailey of Grace Episcopal Church, Blondine Jackson and Martha Garcia proudly grasped shovels and consecrated the sites of their new homes.

Jackson will move into a home at 966 Black Drive with her three grandchildren, Mikaylei, 13, Junior, 11, and Christopher, 9. Garcia plans to move into her home at 1021 Cooley Drive with her two children, Brianna, 4, and Saul, 2. The two families said they hope to move into the houses by Sept. 2.

"I don’t even know how to express myself. It’s my first house, so I’m very excited," Garcia said.

Garcia is a single mother who works as a translator for Hall County Department of Family and Children Services.

Marlys Clinite, a close friend to Garcia, said Habitat for Humanity of Hall County’s selection process did a great job determining a new resident for its 29th home.

"She works hard for her kids, and I think she’s just one of the coolest and most deserving people," Clinite said.

Jackson said she has helped to raise her three grandchildren while living in an apartment on Mill Street.

"I’ve been there 40 years, so this is a blessing for me to move into a home. I needed more space," she said. "I’m telling all my family members Thanksgiving’s at my house this year."

The two Habitat for Humanity homes are supported by First Baptist Church, First United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Grace Episcopal Church and Prince of Peace Catholic Church.

But Dailey said the churches’ partnership with local business Cargill is the factor that made the families’ dreams a reality. He said their funding was a key piece to the puzzle.

The homes on Black and Cooley drives are the fourth and fifth Habitat homes Grace Episcopal Church has sponsored, Dailey said.

The homes are also part of a larger community redevelopment project initiated by the Hall County Board of Commissioners and Home Development Resources Inc.

Both homes will be 1,200 square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

"It’s a wonderful way to provide a hand up, not a handout, to families who are working hard ... to achieve the American dream of homeownership," Dailey said.

Dennis Machida, Habitat’s construction supervisor, said the group acquires the land for families, and community organizations raise funds for construction materials and some contracted labor. Local volunteers will help families moving into Habitat homes build their house each Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday until September.

Machida said Habitat residents are required to put in 300 hours of "sweat equity," 150 of which must be spent constructing either their own or another Habitat home. He said each home costs about $55,000, and families pay an interest-free mortgage on the home over a period of 20 years.

"The more materials we get donated, the less they have to pay," Machida said.

Kent Tilghman, a member of Grace Episcopal Church, said she is a language arts teacher at West Hall Middle School and doesn’t know much about building a house, but she’s willing to test her skills to help a family in need.

"We’ll be out here next Saturday trying to learn how to help build a house," Tilghman said. "It’s nice to help people in places where (Hurricane) Katrina was involved, but I also think it’s nice to help people in our own community."