By Tereza Ma and Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area (HHMCA) celebrated a six-year transformation on Greenview Drive next to St. Therese Parish on Wednesday, February 6. The transformation started with “Catholic Build,” an annual partnership between Habitat and Jackson-area parishes. Habitat started quietly purchasing lots and dilapidated homes on Greenview in 2012. They partnered with St. Therese and other Catholic parishes, Episcopal churches, a local bankers’ association, teams of women, the City of Jackson and corporate sponsors such as Nissan, to rehabilitate or knock down and rebuild homes for Habitat-sponsored families.
According to Habitat, in 2015, 48 of the 69 residences on the street were vacant, abandoned or classified as substandard housing. Only four homes were owner-occupied. At the time of the celebration, Habitat had acquired 36 properties, demolished 23 and built 22 new homes. Five more derelict homes are set to be demolished through the city’s Blight Elimination Project. Fourteen lots will remain open for development. In short, Greenview is a street reborn.
At the celebration, held at St. Therese, Harrison Young, the president of the local Habitat board of directors, delivered a short history of the project and thanked the many groups who stepped up to participate in the project, giving special praise to the late mayor Chokwe Lumumba, who was mayor when the project started. Lumumba’s son Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who is the current mayor, was on hand for the celebration.
Rev. Ronnie Crudup, pastor at New Horizons Church International, offered the opening prayer. His congregation has been involved in a number of South Jackson revitalization projects. Dr. Johnny Anthony, who represented community stakeholders called Greenview the answer to many prayers from many people – not just families who live in neighborhood, but business owners, developers and community leaders.
Merrill McKewen, HFHMCA executive director, fondly remembered the late mayor and honored the amazing volunteers who worked to fulfill what she called “God’s will” for the street and surrounding community.
Homeowner Natasha Thomas became emotional when she spoke about what this project has meant to her. The 29-year old mother said she very proud that her dream of owning a house came true.
Episcopal Father Ron Pogue, dean at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral, said all God’s children should have a decent home and related the story of the street to the logo of St. Andrew cathedral. It contains a cross for St. Andrew and a phoenix representing rebirth because their church burned down three times, but rose from ashes each time. Greenview, he said, has been reborn from ashes to new life. He invited all gathered to raise their hands to bless the street before the celebration closed.