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Four churches pitching in on Habitat home
Lakisha Thomas, center, gets a hug from Janice Ludwig on Sunday afternoon at the ground-breaking ceremony for Thomas’ new Habitat for Humanity home on West Avenue. Thomas and her children plan to be able to move into the home when construction is complete in about 16 weeks.

Volunteers from four area churches gathered once again at the 35th Habitat for Humanity of Hall County building site to celebrate the ground breaking of a home for a Gainesville mother of three.

Lakisha Thomas hopes to move into the 1,150-square-foot home with her young children by October.

Dennis Machida, construction supervisor for Habitat for Humanity of Hall County, said the two-story house on West Avenue will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms. He said volunteers have already laid the foundation for the site, but community members are invited to construct the rest of the house.

“Every Saturday we need 20 to 25 people and we plan to complete this in 16 weeks,” he said.

Grace Episcopal Church, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church and Gainesville First United Methodist Church are sponsoring Thomas’ house and are providing many volunteers.

Doug Dailey, rector of Grace Episcopal, said this house is the sixth Habitat home since 2003 his church has helped to build. He said the “theology of the hammer” drives his congregation to pitch in.

“As Christians, we are called to increase justice, compassion and love and Habitat is a real tangible way to do that,” he said.

Robb Owens, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Hall County, said this house marks the 35th Habitat home Hall Countians have built since the mid 1990s. He estimates about 85 percent of those homes have been built since 2001.

“It’s very exciting to be doing this every year,” he said. “Every house is a mile stone for each family and for us to see the families succeed.”

Owens said Jack and Pat Prince donated the West Avenue lot to Habitat for Humanity of Hall County, and the agency interviewed dozens of families who applied to live on the site before selecting the Thomas family.

“They go through an extensive process. They go through reference checks, interviews and home visits to see the significance of need,” Owens said.

Owens said the family is required to put in 300 “sweat equity” hours in building the home. He said the owner of the home also pays a roughly $70,000 mortgage on the home over a 20-year period.

“It’s a hand up not a hand out,” he said.

Thomas said she found out in December she was selected to move into the home.

“It means a lot, it means a whole lot,” she said. “Where we live now, the floor is falling in and everything. Every time I get something fixed, something else tears up.”

Thomas said she currently lives in the Newtown community and is most excited about having a new kitchen where she can serve up family favorites like fried chicken and potato salad.

Thomas’ aunt, Mary Malone, lives in Lula and came to Gainesville for Sunday’s ground-breaking ceremony.

She said Thomas, who is a laundry attendant at the Holiday Inn on Jesse Jewell Parkway, does her best as a single mother.

“It’s just a blessing because it’s hard raising kids being a single mother by yourself and not having the finances you need to do what you need to do,” Malone said. “Now she can focus on her kids getting a good education and growing up in a good environment and going to college. I’ve seen her struggle. She’s a hard worker and she deserves this.”

Owens said although the economy is in recession, Habitat for Humanity of Hall County hasn’t experienced a spike in home applications.

“We always have a lot of people applying,” he said. “Poverty is present through a recession or not. Poverty is always present.”

Owens said the Hall County agency is planning to break ground on two more homes this year, one in Flowery Branch and another in North Hall.

As the Thomas family sees their future grow more stable one nail at a time, U.S. Congress is taking steps to honor Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Center for Housing.

Under Fuller’s leadership, Habitat for Humanity has become one of the most recognized names in philanthropy.

Since it’s founding in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has built more than 300,000 houses around the world providing more than 1.5 million people in 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter.

The Fuller Center for Housing, a non-profit housing ministry founded by Fuller and wife Linda Fuller in 2005, is currently building and renovating homes for people in need in 53 U.S. communities and 16 countries worldwide, including communities in the Atlanta area and in Americus-Sumter County.

More than 8,000 signatures from 44 countries were gathered to ask Congress to recognize Millard Fuller. The petition began shortly after he died unexpectedly in February.