Sept. 03--There's no doubt in Brenda Crawford's mind that it was divine intervention -- followed by plenty of hard work -- that led to her and husband, Rudolph, accepting the keys to their new-to-them home on Avalon Road in Columbus Thursday afternoon.
"I was praying every step of the way," Crawford said moments after being surrounded by friends, church members and staff from Columbus Area Habitat for Humanity, with the group gathered for a brief home dedication that included humble stories, laughs, prayers and a blessing by the Rev. Henry Ganter of New Providence Baptist Church.
"I said, well, I'm going to step out on faith," said Crawford, whose family's previous home went up in flames several years ago, prompting them to live for a time with her father. "That's what got me here was faith ... faith that I know if there's a way, God's going to provide it for me, and He did."
Ultimately, the Crawfords were a benefactor of a partnership between Habitat for Humanity International and Bank of America, which donated the 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom house to the local Habitat affiliate after it had been sitting vacant for some time due to a foreclosure.
Grant Settle, an operations consultant from Bank of America in Atlanta, made it to the dedication Thursday, expressing best wishes to the Crawfords in their home for years to come. He noted the bank has donated 712 houses to Habitat since 2012. The company initially pledged that year to give away up to 2,000 vacant properties across the U.S.
"Bank of America had listings of homes all over the country that Habitat affiliates could access and this was one of them," said Louise Hurless, executive director of Columbus Area Habitat. "It was donated to us and we were able to fix it up and sell it to the Crawfords."
But that wasn't before tackling a monster of a rehabilitation project that included removing a jungle of vegetation from the severely overgrown front and back yards. Interior floors were replaced or repaired, with electrical and plumbing work and inspections taking place. Water seeping under the foundation also had to be resolved.
Brenda Crawford said she just happened to be shopping when a display about the Habitat program caught her eye more than a year ago. After applying to participate in it, and eventually seeing the Avalon Road dwelling in person, she and Rudolph -- the quiet half of the couple -- suddenly had serious doubts that they were on the right path to homeownership.
"I thought: Oh, Lord, maybe I'm making a mistake. What have I committed myself to? It was terrible at first," said Brenda Crawford, who then told herself to visualize what the home could be, not what it had become after a few years of neglect from sitting empty.
"I'm not supposed to question how it's going to turn out," she said during the dedication. "I just said: Bless it, Lord. And when I came over one day and the forest that was in the backyard was gone, I was like, 'Ooooh, I can see the ground.' I didn't realize I had a big backyard back there."
That's when she felt for certain that the home was meant for the couple -- both in their mid-50s, with a blended family of nine children and 26 grandchildren. During the dedication, at one point blinking back tears, she thanked all who had taken part in the project, from beginning to end. Other Habitat homeowners where on hand, with Marilyn Johnson presenting her with the keys and Clinton Brownlee handing her a bible.
In the end, the project was a labor of love for the Crawfords, who participated in other Habitat projects before turning to their own house, a "sweat equity" requirement by the organization for those seeking to take part in the program, which also includes constructing all-new homes with the help of volunteers.
"I'm very well pleased with it. It's a miracle how it looks," she said of her finished house. "The best part about it is when you get in there and work for what you want, it makes you appreciate it more, too."
The Crawfords now become proud owners of their own home, with a 20-year, interest-free mortgage making it affordable for them. She works at Walmart and Rudolph is a painter.
And a structure that was valued at $20,000 as it languished in foreclosure was reappraised at $76,000 just before the couple closed on their loan. The city is a winner as well, with the property going back on the property tax rolls.
A city building permit from last October shows Columbus Habitat spending $25,000 to get the Avalon Road dwelling back in shape. Hurless said more than 200 people -- from professional trade people to volunteers and her own staffers -- touched the project in some way.
This is the second home Columbus Habitat has rehabilitated out of foreclosure, with another one donated by Wells Fargo being dedicated to a family in May. Hurless hopes there will be more in the future for the organization, which put 11 families in homes last year and is on pace to assist 12 to 14 this year, the local affiliate's 31st year of existence.
Those seeking to participate in the Habitat program submit applications, said Mark McCollum, Columbus Habitat resource development manager. The three basic criteria are showing there is a need, an ability to pay, and a willingness to "partner," or help out with other prospective homeowners' projects.
The foreclosure donations such as those by Bank of America and Wells Fargo, while rare locally, do have a measurable impact, he said.
"It's a good thing that we were able to recycle a house and put it back into homeownership, fix it up," McCollum said. "It doesn't get destroyed or torn down, or just continue to sit vacant. It gets back on the tax rolls, it's owner-occupied, and it's good, of course, for the neighborhood or the community that it's in."
(c)2015 the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Ga.)
Visit the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Ga.) at www.ledger-enquirer.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News