Stanly County Habitat for Humanity needs volunteers, donations of land to continue mission

Since there’s no place like home, Cemita Gibbs has a dream job. She doesn’t work at home, but since 2004 she’s been helping other Stanly County families become homeowners.

“Being able to help someone obtain a home is a great experience,” said Gibbs.

As the director of Stanly County Habitat for Humanity since 2008, Gibbs has seen 36 families realize the dream of home ownership.
Habitat for Humanity International’s website tells how the nonprofit organization began with the idea of “partnership housing.”

A Georgia farmer/Biblical scholar named Clarence Jordan and his wife, Florence, partnered with Habitat’s eventual founders, Millard and Linda Fuller, in the 1960s “to help area residents better help themselves…”

The new initiative focused on helping to “improve the living conditions of local low-income people in need of decent and affordable housing,” laying the foundation for Habitat’s mission through partnerships.

“Partnership” is a prominent word in conversation with Gibbs. Habitat partners with families, communities, businesses, volunteers and donors through a process aimed at eliminating sub-standard housing.

“We want to help the family that just can’t seem to get ahead. They want more out of life, and we want to help break that cycle,” said Gibbs.

An applicant family must reside in Stanly County or have worked in the county for at least one year. A family’s acceptance in the program is based on income, the number in the family and a genuine willingness to partner with Habitat.

Cooperation in supplying all information requested by Habitat and attending homeowner classes shows a willingness to partner. So does 100 hours of “sweat equity” invested in someone else’s home — a requirement for qualifying.

“Habitat homes are a hand up, not a handout,” said Gibbs.

Once a family is selected for the program, they will work alongside other volunteers constructing the home.

“To me, the harder I work for something, the prouder I am of it,” said Gibbs. “We have three Stanly County families waiting on homes right now. They’re up to date with their ‘sweat equity’ and classes, but we need volunteers.”

Most of the onsite volunteer work takes place on the weekends over 6-9 months. A lack of volunteers during the COVID pandemic has put Habitat production behind schedule. Anyone interested in volunteering at a construction site is welcome. Whether individuals or groups, each person is needed. Gibbs won’t turn anyone away, and she insists that construction experience isn’t necessary. She says anyone can learn and lend a hand.

Each local Habitat organization must raise their own money and acquire buildable property with the support of the community.
Labor and monetary contributions sustain the effort made by Habitat to come alongside local families in need of decent housing. Currently, the organization is seeking donated buildable .25-acre properties anywhere in Stanly County.

Gibbs and the Habitat staff work out of offices at the ReStore on N.C. Highway 24-27. ReStore profits go into home construction so every donation and purchase helps the cause.

In 1988, Rev. Justin Hill and Amy Brown organized Stanly County Habitat, and in 1991 three families had been served. In 2003, four houses were completed, bringing the total to 21. As of September 2022, Habitat has completed 57 homes.

“With help, we could possibly have four houses finished this year,” said Gibbs. “That would be awesome.”