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Residents get homes through Habitat for Humanity, Hall County partnership
Mary DuVall, administrative assistant with Habitat for Humanity of Hall County, lets Isaiah Carruth, 3, show her his new room Friday during a dedication for his house on Black Drive. The house, owned by Isaiah’s mother Jessica Bailey, was renovated thanks to Habitat and Hall County’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Jessica Bailey knows how important it is to grow up in a home. The opportunities afforded to children who grow up in a stable environment with a roof over their heads and a place to call their own cannot be overstated.

So now, as a mother, she is overjoyed to provide that same opportunity for her three young children.

“It means the world,” Bailey said.

Bailey purchased a home on Black Drive in Gainesville with the assistance of Habitat for Humanity of Hall County and Hall County government’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program. With grant funds, the NSP purchases foreclosed homes in some of the county’s poorest areas, while Habitat for Humanity coordinates volunteer labor to renovate the homes and identify qualified buyers.

A dedication ceremony for Bailey’s new home was held Friday morning, with representatives from Hall County, Habitat for Humanity, local churches and several of the volunteers who refurbished the home on hand to celebrate Bailey’s new start in a four-bedroom, three-bath house, replete with a large fenced backyard for her children to play in.

The volunteers came from Habitat High, a program sponsored by Habitat for Humanity in partnership with the Hall County school system that recruits juniors and seniors from local high schools to provide them real-world experience in the construction industry.

Rodney Presley, fondly called “The King,” is the teacher of the program, which began in 2007 and is based out of Lanier Charter Academy. He said Habitat High has renovated and dedicated about a dozen homes.

Jake Owens, 19, a graduate of the program who worked on Bailey’s home, called the experience invaluable for leading him into a successful career. But he was also conscious of the positive impact his work had on recipients like Bailey.

“It’s a nice feeling to help a family out,” Owens said.

Bailey was one of two Hall County moms to receive Habitat’s blessing for her home this weekend. Iris Aceves, mother of sons Adrian, 9, and Julian, 4, received volunteers and organizers Saturday at her completed Autumn Leaf Drive home in Gillsville.

“Without Habitat, I know I wouldn’t be a home owner,” Aceves said. “I’d be moving the kids around and around. It’s great to be home.

“Thank you all. I’m very grateful.”

Habitat Executive Director Ann Nixon paused during her dedication speech upon hearing sounds of Aceves’ young children playing.

“There’s nothing more impactful than a child who has found a home,” said Nixon in a shaky voice. “And it makes me a little teary.”

Representatives from Habitat for Humanity and NSP said the partnership between the two entities is mutually beneficial. First, Habitat benefits by ramping up its goal to provide homes to 100 families by 2020, and the organization is already fast approaching the halfway mark. And the county benefits by removing blight and adding homes back to the tax digest. Moreover, the county can save money on refurbishing these homes through the partnership.

“Our dollars can go further,” said Commissioner Jeff Stowe, adding that the partnership brings stability to the neighborhood and gives owners a sense of pride.

Recipients of the homes must meet certain income restrictions, and must also put in what Habitat Executive Director Ann Nixon calls “sweat equity,” which includes committing to hundreds of hours of labor in restoring and keeping up the home and property.

“Currency comes in many forms,” Nixon said.

For qualified recipients, the property is sold at cost, or without profit to Habitat or NSP, and buyers receive a zero-interest mortgage. This deal means that working-class, low-income families can find affordable housing to meet their needs.

The hard work put in by all involved was not lost on Bailey.

“It paid off in the end,” she said.

Staff writer Emma Witman contributed to this story.