Gail Ayers paid attention two years ago when St. Joseph of the Pines became the first business to partner with Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills to construct a new residence for an employee.
“I asked one of my colleagues how I could get a house built for me,” said Ayers, a housekeeper at St. Joseph of the Pines.
Told that she needed to contact Habitat for Humanity to see if she qualified, Ayers wasted no time in doing so, was approved shortly thereafter, and waited patiently for her name to move to the top of the construction list.
Ayers’ fortitude paid off earlier this month when Habitat broke ground on her new home in Aberdeen.
“I couldn’t be happier,” she said. “I am so thankful to St. Joseph of the Pines for doing another build for a colleague. This time, it just happens to be me. It’s exciting to know that I am getting closer and closer to moving in.”
St. Joseph of the Pines launched an internal fundraising campaign for the Ayers build earlier this year, asking residents, colleagues, board members and vendors for donations to help raise the $70,000 needed to construct the home.
“It makes me feel really good to know that people who don’t even know me have donated to my house,” Ayers said. “I can’t thank them enough for everything.”
Amie Fraley, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills, said she is “thrilled to partner with SJP on another special build.”
“The last build exceeded our expectations,” Fraley said. “The SJP team held two Build Days and supported their colleague, Stacy Martin, throughout the process. They also came out in droves for the dedication of her home in June 2017.
“It’s inspiring to see an employer so committed to its colleagues.”
Fraley said Habitat believes that everyone deserves a safe, decent and affordable home. The nonprofit offers “a hand up, not a handout” to hardworking families so they can purchase a home with a no-interest mortgage.
This means Ayers will purchase the home from Habitat after she completes 300 sweat equity hours and attends homeownership classes.
“Too many people think we give away homes to those without jobs,” Fraley said. “In fact, we sell homes to hardworking families in our community. Gail is a prime example of that because she has already put in more than 600 sweat equity hours. She is an amazing woman and an inspiration to all future homeowners.”
Lori Portfleet, president at St. Joseph of the Pines, said the nonprofit entities share a unique vision.
“We feel a real connection to Habitat by living our mission of serving together as a transforming, healing presence in our community,” Portfleet said. “What Habitat does is much more than providing shelter for people. It’s the intangible quality of hope that it provides.”
Portfleet noted that six other St. Joseph of the Pines colleagues own Habitat homes.
“We have seen the real tangible benefits that Habitat homeowners receive,” she said. “By their own initiative, through their own pride and hope, they change. We witnessed it with Stacy and we are seeing it again with Gail. We could not be prouder of these two awe-inspiring ladies.”
Fraley agreed, saying, “Homeownership leads to motivated employees able to focus on their work. We look forward to continuing this relationship to serve our community together.”
St. Joseph of the Pines hosted a Build Day for the Ayers home on Aug. 10 in which participants built the components for the walls, and came back on Aug. 23 to raise those walls.
“It was wonderful to see my colleagues come out and support me,” Ayers said. “I am so blessed, so I know that my house will be as well.”
Fraley said the builds with St. Joseph of the Pines has been such a success that Habitat would like to grow the concept.
“We hope to partner with other lead employers so they can identify hardworking employees who meet our criteria,” she said. “We value local employers who recognize that teaming up with Habitat is a worthwhile investment.”
Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills is part of a global nonprofit housing organization founded on Christian principles with a vision to provide safe, decent and affordable housing in the Sandhills.
Since 1988, the affiliate has served over 300 families in Moore and Richmond counties through home construction and repairs. It operates ReStores in each county, and the funds go directly to building more homes. As an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, its work extends internationally to Zambia and Haiti.
St. Joseph of the Pines is an aging services network offering a full continuum of retirement housing, health care and community-based services for older adults as well as community outreach to those in need. It is a Trinity Health Senior Community continuing the legacy of the Sisters of Providence.
Feature photo courtesy of St. Joseph of the Pines: Gail Ayers (far left) and team lifting a wall on her new Aberdeen home.