Darla Gibson hugged more than a dozen high school students who showed up Friday to dedicate her dream house at the Habitat for Humanity subdivision.
Xavier Sheppard, 18, a senior at Gainesville High School, received one of those hugs. It was the first home GHS had a hand in building since joining the Habitat High program.
“It was a great learning experience,” Sheppard said. “I worked on everything — the porch, walls, floors.”
Gibson said it was a great learning experience for her as well as she worked shoulder to shoulder with students and volunteers. She volunteered 300 hours on other people’s houses as a prerequisite to working on her home.
“It taught me not only how a house is put together, but how to maintain a house,” Gibson said. “It’s been exciting, and now it’s rewarding.”
Gibson’s husband, Tracy, said his disability kept him from putting in sweat equity like Darla did.
“This is a blessing,” Tracy said of the three bedroom, two bath home.
Following the dedication, Darla Gibson also expressed her gratitude.
“I appreciate everything you did,” she said. “I appreciate all of you that believed in me from the very beginning.”
Tim Williams, executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Hall County credited Brian Daniel, president of Carroll Daniel Construction, for helping get Gainesville High involved.
“Brian is a Gainesville alumni and so he had a bug in his hat,” Williams said. “His bug in his hat was that the county had a Habitat High program, but the city didn’t. Brian wanted to make it a reality, so he stepped forth and put his dream into action by placing some money behind that.”
Through Habitat High, students gain class credit and work experience.
GHS teacher Shane Millwood supervised students who worked on the Gibson home.
“Our next project is right up on the hill,” Millwood said. “We’ll roll right into that starting Monday. I’ll have the same kids. The goal before they get off for the summer is to have the floor, roof and start closing out all the exterior. The goal is to build a house, but also to teach them life skills and give them something they can always fall back on.”
Rodney Pressley, the Habitat High teacher for Hall schools, also brought his students to the dedication.
Logan Haynie, an 18-year-old senior at Johnson High, said his biggest thrill on the job was joining his teacher on the roof to put the plywood on it.
“We did siding and we put the back deck yesterday,” Haynie said.
Gainesville School Superintendent Wanda Creel led a delegation from the district to mark its partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
“This is something we had wanted to do for a while,” Creel said. “Brian Daniel stepped up and helped us make that a possibility. We had an overload of students that wanted to take construction classes … boys and girls.”
The Gibson home is the fifth to be dedicated at the Habitat for Humanity subdivision — 42 acres that was donated to the organization. The land can support 21 homes off Baker Road and near Ga. 60/Candler Road. The subdivision includes a walking trail and community garden.
Williams said they will soon be starting another three homes in the neighborhood.
To qualify, Habitat homeowners must meet income guidelines, show they can make mortgage payments and make a down payment.
Williams said there is a shortage of decent, affordable housing in Hall County.
“With average median rents of over $1300 a month, it’s hard for a hard-working family like this to be able to afford to rent a home in this county, not less own a home,” Williams said.