JACKSON – At 7:45 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 18, Father Michael O’Brien of St. Richard Parish gathered with volunteers, Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area staff and homeowner Carolyn Madlock, to bless Catholic Build 2014 in Jackson. Every fall parishes in the Jackson area pool resources and volunteers to build a house for a family. This is the 29th year for the project.
Father O’Brien began with a reading from the Acts of the Apostles about how the early Christian community shared everything. “I thought that passage might be very appropriate because that is our version of that today – the community coming together, to make sacrifices, to work together, to give of their time and gifts and talents to build a house together for Carolyn and her family,” said Father O’Brien. Madlock is an employee of St. Dominic Hospital.
Ibby Joseph, a member of Madison St. Francis of Assisi has helped build 12 homes. “My husband got me started. It makes me feel useful. I agree that everyone deserves decent housing,” she said. “This is a little way that I can help. My sister teased me that the houses that I worked on will fall down. I don’t think they have,” joked Joseph.
Marion Coleman is a Habitat homeowner and a fellow employee at St. Dominic. She said she came out to pay it forward. Her coworker, Marshall Belaga, said this is his way of contributing to the overall health of the community. “One of the things that as a psychiatrist I deal with is a lot of people who live on the streets. Housing and a secure place to live, along with food, are a prerequisite to mental health,” he said.
Jim Jeter, chief development officer and foundation executive director at St. Dominic Health Services and member of the Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area Board of Directors, was on hand to work.
“Many people do not understand what a ‘not-for-profit’ healthcare organization really means. St. Dominic’s leadership and employee involvement in Catholic Build is one of many examples of how we try to give back to the community we serve,” Jeter said.
“Our only reason for existing is to serve our community with time, talent and treasure,” he explained. “We are a ministry of Christian healing, and Habitat is just one way that we give back. I am proud to serve on a board that truly helps individuals by giving a hand up, not a hand out,” continued Jeter.
Charles Graham, a member of Christ the King Parish, has been volunteering at Habitat builds for 18-20 years, volunteering initially in a community service project with fellow firemen. “I do it to give back. I have been blessed and want to pass on that blessing,” he explained. “I like building and repairing, and have the skills and tools. It was just a natural for me, when I retired from the fire department, to keep on volunteering at Habitat builds. Once you work on a build, you are hooked,” he noted.
Volunteers also came from Gluckstadt St. Joseph and the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. Habitat homeowners must invest ‘sweat equity’ in their homes, meaning they work to help build and maintain their homes. The organization will help them learn about homeownership and money management even after they move in. Work will continue for two months.
Plans are already underway for the 2015 Catholic Build. For more info, contact Merrill McKewen, resource development director, Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area, at 601-353-6060.
(Peggy Hampton, Public Relations, Marketing and Fundraising Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity and Maureen Smith contributed to this report)