Marcia Francis

"Habijax Builds Dreams"

Neighborhoods Magazine - September 07, 2001

I wrote feature articles for Neighborhoods Magazine over a two-year period. Feature articles like the cover story, "Habijax Builds Dreams," were approximately 1,500 - 2,000 words in length.

Habijax is the Jacksonville, Florida Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The full article is available upon request. Here is an excerpt:

Habijax Builds Dreams

"Drive into the Fairway Oaks subdivision, and you'll see what looks like a typical new housing development in Jacksonville. Rows of new houses line the streets. Young landscaping plants are beginning to grow deep roots in neatly manicured lawns. Flower pots and garden benches sit alongside welcome mats of many a front door. Children are at play, riding their bikes or swinging back and forth on an old-fashioned porch swing.

But Fairway Oaks is not a typical new housing development. Its new homes, like many around Jacksonville, represent the foundation of the American Dream: home ownership. But for the homeowners in Fairway Oaks, it was a dream most thought impossible to realize until they crossed the threshold of Habijax, the Jackonville chapter of Habitat for Humanity."

"For 22-year-old GeQuanda Jenifer, life in Fairway Oaks is good and getting better every day. Her 23rd birthday is just around the corner, and she is making plans for a September wedding. Jenifer started her Habijax paperwork in August 1999. By November, her application was approved. In February 2000, she began building her sweat equity, which is the 300 volunteer hours each prospective Habijax homeowner must accumulate to qualify for a home. The first 200 hours must be spent helping build the homes of others, and the final 100 are spent helping raise the roof of their own homes.

Jenifer enjoys life in her new home and neighborhood. "I love the neighborhood because if you're home by yourself, you're not alone. You can walk out the door and there's someone there... It's good to be around a group of people like this. I speak to everybody. It's very nice."

Prior to owning her own home, Jenifer and her infant son lived at her mother's. It is clear how much her home means to her and how deeply the experience of becoming a homeowner has affected her life.

"I look at life a lot differently now because I have a lot more responsibility than I did at my mother's house. I feel I've accomplished a whole lot... I'm proud of myself."

"By providing low-income working people with adequate, affordable housing, Habijax is strengthening the community. However, new homeowners and their families are not the only ones whose lives are transformed by this experience. Sponsors and volunteers find their lives are changed, as well.

Homeowner Johnnie Kate Morris said that whenever she sees Methodist Coalition leader Glen Green, he gives her a big hug. The Methodist Coalition sponsored the home that Morris, a 63-year-old widow, has lived in since November. Green said he has gotten much in return from being a Habijax volunteer.

"It's a good feeling to know you helped build something that has made a difference in another person's life," he said. "Years from now you can come back, drive down the street and see the house you helped build. It is very tangible. It's lasting."

Green helped put a roof on a house the first year he volunteered. Today, he encourages others to get involved. "Once people volunteer to work on a house, they're hooked."