After a hiatus due to the pandemic, volunteers with the Magic City Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) are back in the community in full force and ready to start work on their 25th Habitat for Humanity house.
The 10-day home build in Pleasant Grove is the chapter’s first Habitat project since 2018, said Anna Chandler, Magic City APSO president and a Southern Company accountant. The project is scheduled to begin on Oct. 24, culminating with the dedication of the home on Nov. 4.
“We’re all really excited to be back volunteering in person,” Chandler said. “We’ve spent the last few years doing projects virtually, but now we’re back to doing them face-to-face and seeing the people we are assisting. I think it makes a big difference when you can see the impact you’re making.”
Magic City APSO has been partnering with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Birmingham to build homes for families since 1998. Habitat Birmingham builds and repairs homes in partnership with low- to moderate-income families, with the goal of helping provide affordable housing and meeting disaster recovery needs in Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties.
“The pandemic presented unprecedented challenges, some which have had a lasting impact, like a substantial cost increase for construction materials, but we are operating at full capacity,” said Charles Moore, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater Birmingham. “Affordable housing is in high demand and Habitat Birmingham is fortunate to continue house production and, thankfully, volunteers are back on the construction sites. Alabama Power Service Organization’s 24-year partnership is a privilege and appreciated. It’s organizations like APSO that help further our mission of offering affordable housing options that benefit the entire community.”
The new homeowner is Desinee Lawson, a single mom with two children – Elijah, 9, and Emoree, 3. A native of Birmingham, Lawson works in customer service for the Social Security Administration. She said she enjoys spending time with her children and helping them “learn, color, sing and dance.”
Lawson will be working alongside volunteers to help build her home. She’s grateful to APSO and Habitat Birmingham for paving the way for her to own her first home.
“Thank you so much for all that you do for people who are trying to better their life,” Lawson said. “I look forward to the kids having their own rooms and giving them a solid foundation to grow into successful adults.”
Habitat for Humanity puts home ownership within reach of families who cannot afford a house under other circumstances. Qualified families are required to repay a no-interest mortgage, complete 300 hours of “sweat equity” on their house or another Habitat home and take 20 hours of home ownership education workshops.
“Although Habitat’s program is not free, it offers a fantastic opportunity for those who dream of homeownership but cannot qualify for conventional home loans,” Moore said.
Lawson’s three-bedroom, two-bath house will be built to meet energy efficiency standards, with Energy Star-rated windows, insulation and appliances.
Families are given the chance to make their homes their own, Moore said; Lawson selected the neighborhood where she wants to live, along with the house plan, paint colors, countertops and flooring.
Since its founding 35 years ago, Habitat Birmingham has built 766 homes and repaired or renovated nearly 1,480 houses in its four-county service area.
Habitat Birmingham is among 1,200 U.S. affiliates of Habitat for Humanity International, a nonprofit founded by Alabama natives Millard and Linda Fuller and based on their Christian values. One of Habitat’s basic tenets is that people place more value on things they earn than things that are given to them. Thus, Habitat for Humanity is an “opportunity, not a giveaway program,” Moore said.
Chandler, who is coordinating the APSO project, said she is looking forward to working on the house with the Lawson family.
“We are all very blessed. Having the opportunity to give back to others means a lot to me,” said Chandler. “I have never worked on a Habitat house before, and I’m very excited to be involved.”