For years, Shara Smith of Bowman has wanted a home of her own for her and her 5-year-old daughter, Taylor.
After her mother moved away to another state, Smith was forced to find adequate housing. Since that transition, Smith has moved to different mobile homes with family members to try to find stable living arrangements for her and her family.
“I used to always apply for apartments or section 8, and it never worked out, and now I see why” Smith said. “Because God had better for me. It was meant for me to get my own house, and I’m so proud of myself. I did it for my daughter, too. I want her to have her own room … ,” Smith said.
More than 60 volunteers, most of them women, spent Saturday, May 5, building a home for Smith -- the latest Edisto Habitat for Humanity house in Orangeburg.
Construction of the new house began with a commemoration of Habitat for Humanity National Women Build Week. The observance encourages more women volunteers to be part of the non-profit Christian organization’s work to eliminate poverty housing.
HFH volunteers and builders throughout the nation wear blue to celebrate Women Build Week.
Smith's home marks the 81st house that Edisto HFH has built in the Orangeburg County area since its founding in 1991. Edisto was one of the nearly 1,500 Habitat for Humanity affiliates selected to receive the $5,000 donation from Lowe’s that helped make the day possible.
"Lowe’s is about giving back to the community,” Lowe’s of Orangeburg Assistant Store Manager Kiesha Moore said. “We love being in the community, helping the community. We love making people love where they live. When we can get out of the store and volunteer our services, we are more than willing to do so because we are the community.”
“One thing we plan on doing is helping out with the landscape," she said. "We have an awesome lawn and garden team. Extra services for landscaping will be donated to the homeowner as a show of support for her new home and giving back to the community."
Smith’s home is the second EHFH home that has been built this year, and the organization plans to build two more before the year is over.
Smith’s daughter, Taylor, said she was “happy” to be living in her first home because she will finally have a yard of her own to play in. The idea of playing “doll house” with dolls in her own new home excited her, too.
Jamie Wood, executive director of Edisto Habitat for Humanity, has been with Smith throughout her journey to home ownership.
“Shara has been an excellent Habitat partner,” Wood said. "She has demonstrated a willingness to serve the other families in the program. We know that she and her daughter, Taylor, have a bright future ahead as they start their new life in their new home … . We feel that having a safe, decent and affordable house will help her meet her goals for the future."
She added, “I am always joyful when I see someone set goals such as Shara and then see them succeed. Becoming a Habitat homeowner requires quite a bit of work and determination. When we arrive at this time of passing the keys to the family, I’m always proud of the hard work that they (the HFH families) put into the program."
Smith waited a year and a half and completed more than 300 volunteer hours before receiving her Edisto Habitat for Humanity home.
She said she encourages those who are pursuing home ownership to “be patient” because “it’s well worth the wait, and time flies.”
Smith is currently a junior at South Carolina State University, where she is pursuing a degree in education to become a second-grade teacher.
In addition to Lowe’s, donations came from other community members, organizations, businesses, churches and volunteers to help make Smith’s $80,000 home a reality.
Chick-Fil-A provided lunch for the volunteers at Saturday's event. Other volunteers and service groups included Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, CEO of CASA Family Systems; St. Matthews First Baptist Church; the Empower Her Orangeburg Chapter of the American Business Women’s Association; and Ms. Orangeburg County Cadra Salley.
“I love the work that Jamie and her team do in improving the quality of life for families in this area,” Cobb-Hunter said.
“There’s nothing like having your own home, and thanks to Habitat, families in Orangeburg can say that and pretty soon little Taylor and her mom will be able to say that, too," she added. "Hats off to the Edisto chapter. I appreciate their hard work and, most importantly, their persistence through these years and sticking to it. You need to not just have a goal, but you need to be persistent in pursuing that goal, and Edisto HFH has been persistent to that goal."
Edisto Habitat for Humanity encourages Orangeburg County residents to visit its store at 260 John C. Calhoun Drive, where those like Smith work hard to complete the volunteer hours necessary to become a Habitat homeowner.
In order to receive a HFH home, applicants are required to give 350 hours of volunteer time to the program, have a need for housing and be able to make monthly payments on a 25-year, zero-interest mortgage.
Wood said HFH is continually looking for new partnerships with businesses, civic organizations and churches to help raise funds to build the homes that they build here in Orangeburg.
For more information on how to donate, volunteer, or participate, call Jamie Wood at 803-536-2300.