COVID-19 tried its best to grind Habitat for Humanity of Harnett County down to a screeching halt.
A litany of new guidelines and social distancing requirements combined with increased costs of building materials stretched the organization thin, not only with manpower but time.
As it showed in August and again last weekend, members of Habitat for Humanity remained committed to its goals of helping families despite any unforeseen circumstances.
Community leaders joined members of the organization at a groundbreaking ceremony on Oct. 24 where the latest venture will welcome the family of a single mother.
“[COVID-19] definitely makes it harder for us,” said Mike Blackmon, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Harnett County. “We struggled with it, especially in midstream of the pandemic. Our mission continues.”
Habitat’s last dedication occurred in late August and culminated an extended process made longer by delays associated with various aspects of the virus.
Blackmon often found himself working on the home alone, doing whatever he could to keep the ball bouncing. Restrictions passed by both Gov. Roy Cooper and Habitat for Humanity International slashed the number of people who could work on the project.
“We were limited as to what we could do with volunteers to complete the house,” Blackmon said. “I basically went out there and worked by myself to do what I could do. When restrictions became less restrictive we started having volunteers go back. When they went back we were in the painting stage so we were able to social distance by putting people in rooms by themselves.”
The house took more than a year to complete, but Blackmon hopes that with restrictions easing, the new project will take far less time. With the groundbreaking ceremony completed, the process should move forward at a steady pace.
“We should be able to get started on this house hopefully next week,” said Blackmon. “Once we get the concrete slab poured we can begin standing walls and hopefully this house won’t take as long as the last one did. It all depends on how North Carolina makes it through this COVID crisis.”
Blackmon introduced those in attendance at the ceremony to Constance Lewis, the single mother of three from Buies Creek who will call the empty lot in Erwin a home in the not-too-distant future.
Further complicating matters for Habitat moving forward is the increasing cost of supplies. Blackmon said the price of certain materials skyrocketed in recent months, forcing the organization to make financial adjustments.
“Some building materials since we completed the last house have actually tripled in costs,” Blackmon said. “One of the reasons we’re going with a concrete slab floor is it’s about $3,000 cheaper than a wooden floor due to the cost of materials. We had the board approve a budget based on current prices. If these prices start to decline, that’s just going to benefit Habitat.”
Habitat received additional good news when Erwin commissioners recently voted to donate two parcels of land to the organization for future homes.
“We’re in the process of doing that,” Erwin Town Manager Snow Bowden said. “Habitat is a valuable organization and everyone who gets one of these homes earns it. These were two properties the town obtained and we tore down the structures on both lots. Hopefully, Habitat will build on them and add to our tax base.”
-Dunn Daily Record