After months helping build their houses on Tall Pine Way, the Columbus and Byrd families stepped through the thresholds on Friday as homeowners.
Meoshea Columbus and Joseph and Holly Byrd were tucked into a crowd of dozens for the blessing and dedication of their new homes south of Gainesville built by Hall County Habitat for Humanity for, and with, the two families.
Volunteers, students, fundraisers and Habitat for Humanity staff were on hand for the event on an overcast Friday at the end of Tall Pine Way -- a quiet road capped by a cul-de-sac that hosts the two homes.
Those homes were built by the families themselves, the required hours of work called “sweat equity” that are part of the price of receiving the home, and a cadre of volunteers that together put in almost 3,000 hours of work.
And the work isn’t over. The nonprofit is building a third home on another lot in the cul-de-sac now known as “Medical Center Circle” after the Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation dedicated more than $280,000 to building homes in the area. The cash came from the foundation’s annual Medical Center Open golf tournament.
Drew Meyer, executive director of Hall County Habitat for Humanity, said the work done on Tall Pine Way using the proceeds from the tournament would have “multigenerational” benefits.
“What the foundation has done … it’s like putting a pebble in a pond,” Meyer said. “The impact that you’re having on these two families will go on forever.”
The sentiment rang true as the families stood among the crowd with their children, who now will have a home of their own.
The Byrds had with them their three children, 3-year-old Dylen, 7-year-old Ethen and 9-year-old Morgan. Columbus had her two, 11-year-old Julie and 3-year-old Kennedy.
The dedication of the homes marked a sea change in the quality of life for Columbus who with her children has spent the past three and a half years working her way through the Habitat program while moving between rented apartments and living with friends.
“It’s been a rough road. During the past couple of years I’ve had surgeries and kids getting sick and lost a job, but thankfully got a new one. It’s been kind of rocky,” Columbus said. “Right now I’m living with somebody, and now we’re going to have our own home.”
But it wasn’t just a first for Columbus and the Byrds. Friday was the first time Hall County Habitat has dedicated two homes at once, and the cul-de-sac is the first time the nonprofit has built three homes at once, according to Tim Williams, the former executive director.
Along with friends, families and people associated with Habitat, the two families walked through their finished homes after remarks from Habitat staff and leaders and a prayer by Casey Ryals.
Speakers talked about how thankful Habitat is to donors and volunteers, how the work the nonprofit does affects the community and how people need to continue to work together to improve life for everyone in Hall County.
And for Meoshea Columbus, the work has paid off.
“I’m just happy to have a house. It’s a blessing all the way around,” she said, looking up the concrete driveway to her children on her front porch. “It’s a blessing.”