By Peggy Hampton
JACKSON – As he prepared for Saturday evening Mass, Msgr. Elvin Sunds gazed through the trees near St. Therese Catholic Church and his eyes fixed on a rooftop. He realized it was the same roof of a Habitat for Humanity house on Greenview Drive, on which he was working that day with parishioners from St. Therese, St. Richard and Madison St. Francis of Assisi Parishes.
“The family who will call this house home will be our next door neighbors,” he said. “I look forward to welcoming them.”
The Greenview home is part of a neighborhood in South Jackson being revitalized by Habitat for Humanity. The street filled with blighted, decaying and abandoned homes is being transformed into a beautiful, safe neighborhood where working families live, grow and thrive.
This is due, in great part, to the hard work and commitment of their “neighbors” at St. Therese and the many volunteers from area Catholic churches, who have given their time and resources to improve housing.
Every fall parishes in the Jackson area pool resources and volunteers to build a Habitat house for a family. This is the 31st year for Catholic churches to partner with Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area and a local family in need of a decent, safe, affordable place to live. Partner churches this year are Flowood St. Paul, Madison St. Francis of Assisi, Clinton Holy Savior, Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish and Jackson St. Therese, St. Richard, Christ the King and St. Peter the Apostle Parishes along with St. Dominic’s Health Services and the Catholic Diocese of Jackson,
The Catholic community has played a significant role in the transformation by partnering with Habitat on the first two houses built on the street – the Pope Francis House and the 2015 Catholic Build home – and now the 2016 Catholic Build Home. Habitat has acquired 27 properties on Greenview Drive, demolished 17 derelict houses and by the end of 2016 will have built 12 new Habitat homes on the street. More Habitat builds are planned for 2017.
Msgr. Sunds worked with volunteers recently on the 2016 Catholic Build house on Greenview, which is just west of St. Therese Church. “It is wonderful to see Habitat building so many homes on Greenview Drive,” Msgr. Sunds said. “They are not just building homes. They are building a neighborhood. On behalf of St. Therese Parish, thank you!”
The new neighbors of the 2016 Catholic Build Home are Ariel and Chris Jones and their three children ages seven, eight and nine. The Joneses have worked on the Habitat homes, investing “sweat equity” and will purchase the home with a no-interest loan. Ariel thanked all the volunteers and Habitat, which also assisted them in learning more about budgeting and home-ownership.
“I am so grateful for the energy, the love and the care that the Catholic Build volunteers and sponsors have shown our family,” said Ariel, who is a medical assistant at a local clinic. “My family is so grateful for the love they are putting in building our home. They are the most loving people I have ever met. This is a great build!”
Chris, a house painter, said the new home is a blessing. “From the bottom of my heart, we appreciate it and thank you!” The Catholic Build volunteers have been dedicated in their efforts throughout the years and are motivated by service and love of others.
“Why am I here? I enjoy the community coming together to do something that will make our community a better place to live and worship,” said Ben Mokry of St. Therese. One Catholic Build volunteer family worked on several Greenview homes.
“I think everyone deserves decent housing, volunteering on a Habitat house is one small way that I can help,” said Ibby Joseph of St. Francis. “My husband likes to volunteer and he encouraged me to volunteer as well. I have worked not only on the Catholic Build houses but also the Habitat house the Episcopal community built on Greenview Drive.”
Mike McElroy of St. Francis said he volunteers “because it is fun!” “That’s why God made it fun,” responded Polly Hammett of St. Francis.
Kerryn DeVerteuil of St. Therese agrees. “It’s good to meet and work with parishioners from different churches and develop a special relationship with them,” he said. “It’s uplifting as well to work with the homeowners and see their joy and happiness in getting their first home.”
Msgr. Sunds said building homes to help others is “living out Jesus’ command to love one another and show love through our actions.”
“It is wonderful to be building a neighborhood next to our church and have people who will be living here as our neighbors,” he said. “It is great to see the community coming together to provide housing for someone who otherwise not be able to afford a home.”
(Peggy Hampton is the Public Relations, Marketing and Fundraising Coordinator
for Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area.)