“They were extremely excited when they first found out,” said Robin Hooker, executive director of Bartow Area Habitat for Humanity. “They were actually going to be waiting on a house after the first of the year, but then this one came open for them to be able to receive. And they were tickled to death.
“... This is the first [home] that we’ve dedicated the week of Christmas. So it was very special at the dedication service because we talked about what an honor it was to really give a gift of a house for this family. And they are just extremely excited and blessed and pleased. They are just beside [themselves].”
Built under the guidance of General Contractor Don Liotta with Outside the Box Construction, the four-bedroom, two-bathroom residence — on Fairview Street in Cartersville — will provide shelter for Lowe, her two children and 59-year-old mother. Equipped with handicap-accessible features, the home will better meet the needs of her 5-year-old son, Jezrel, who has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and is allergic to sunlight and artificial lighting.
“[This will improve our lives] more than you could ever imagine because now I don’t have to worry about my son [or worry about] when he’s older how [I am] going to get the money up to put the things in the house that he needs, such as the window tint on the windows, the correct lighting, the handicap accessibility to the bathrooms, the showers and stuff like that,” Lowe said. “... It’s [really a] blessing that we were [selected].
“[Also] my children will be healthy [because] the house is not drafty and it’s standing, nothing’s falling apart on it. We were renting a trailer [before] and my son and I were having to share a room because he’s got medical equipment that I felt like I needed to be right there by so if something went off, I could be there to get it.”
For Hooker, being a part of every homeowner’s journey — from hearing their initial reactions to presenting them with the keys — is a rewarding experience.
“I always hear, ‘I’m so excited, we’re getting a new house, my family is going to be excited, my children are going to be thrilled that they have their own bedrooms.’ There’s multitude of things that we hear whenever families are selected for Habitat houses,” Hooker said. “... You [also] see what their ethics are going to be like. You see what they’re going to be when it comes to taking care of their home. When you put in time into building a home, it shows after the fact through making their house payments and taking care of their home and things like that.
“It has been an incredible journey [for the Lowes]. Melissa has a very big job to do every single day. Her youngest has to go to many doctors appointments and she travels ... all over taking her youngest to the doctor and she’s still been working on Habitat houses. She’s worked on several before this one. So she has put forth a tremendous effort to receive this Habitat house and it’s an honor for us for her to be able to move in this house.”
Since forming in 1984, Bartow Area Habitat for Humanity has constructed about 40 residences.
An average of 150 people apply each year, with 10 percent of their applications being further reviewed. To be approved, applicants need to satisfy various requirements, such as meeting income guidelines, living or working in Bartow County for at least one year, contributing at least 450 hours in their home’s construction and being able to pay for their residence. Valued about $140,000, the nonprofit’s homes are sold for about $80,000. House payments issued by Habitat range from $400 to $450 a month, which includes taxes and insurance.
“[We are] excited, thrilled and very blessed. ... I thank them from the bottom of my heart because if it wasn’t for them, we would not be able to do this and the support that they gave [was wonderful],” Lowe said, referring to Habitat and its volunteers. “I was on the job volunteering with the Habitat home just as much as I was taking my son back and forth to all his doctors appointments, which he has just about every week. ... I’m grateful for everybody that was involved.”
The Lowes’ home was the second Habitat residence built in 2012 with funding provided by a Community Development Block Grant that was awarded to the city of Cartersville in November 2009. Next year, the nonprofit is planning to construct two homes with financial assistance from the block grant and Anheuser-Busch, Hooker said.
“Without the funds from the community and from our different organizations, we can’t build our Habitat houses,” Hooker said. “So the need is tremendous in Bartow County. There are so many people living in either tents, homeless conditions, in houses that are totally unacceptable living conditions.
“So all around Bartow County and the city of Cartersville and then every community around the Bartow County area, there’s a huge need for adequate housing. And that’s what the main goal for Habitat for Humanity is to do is to reduce the substandard living conditions in our community. ... I’m just thrilled that we are building houses in our community and making a difference for Bartow County.”
In addition to constructing residences for new applicants, Habitat also will be unveiling two new programs next year to help families needing painting and critical home repairs.
For more information about the nonprofit or to volunteer on future projects, call Habitat at 770-382-6293.