Open hearts led to open checkbooks during the Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity’s 13th annual Golden Hammer Pledge Breakfast on April 1.
Three hundred and fifty people from local businesses and organizations attended the event.
“This is our only fundraiser by invitation only. … There is no cost to come, but it is a pledge breakfast and the hope is that people will open their checkbooks,” said Kitty Yerkes, Habitat development director during a March 27 phone interview.
Three Habitat homeowners spoke at the breakfast.
Martha Thompson, 20-year Habitat homeowner, paid her last mortgage payment on April 1.
“They’re doing a great thing and they don’t have to do it,” Thompson said.
Thompson’s daughter is also a Habitat homeowner. Housing disadvantage often passes from parents to children and Habitat anticipates children of homeowners will also become homeowners.
“We hope to break the generational cycle of substandard housing,” Yerkes said.
Pauline Miller has been a Habitat homeowner for four years. She said Habitat’s support helped her and her children invest in a future.
“I know sweat equity. I know broken fingers. It doesn’t hurt. When I pay my mortgage, it doesn’t hurt. I know I’m paying it forward,” Miller said.
Habitat homeowners are required to help build their homes, an investment the organization calls sweat equity.
“This isn’t subsidized housing. [Homeowners] helped build their house. They have sweat equity. They’re proud to pay their taxes,” Yerkes said.
Sherrill Bowman is the newest Habitat homeowner. She struggled in rental properties to care for her son Michael, who has cerebral palsy. Every time she left her house, she had to bump her son’s wheelchair down a set of stairs.
Bowman’s new home is suited to her son’s needs with laminate floors, a walk-in shower and a ramp entrance.
Bowman said it was hard to explain how much the house meant for her family.
“Not a lot of people have children with special needs. That in itself is really hard. Having a home built to fit a special-needs child… it makes you feel that someone actually does care,” Bowman said.
Homeowners are not the only ones to reap benefits. Jack Barto, president and CEO of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, said he is personally rewarded from helping through Habitat.
“I don’t feel better doing anything than coming out to help… it’s one of those things you do that just makes you feel it’s right,” Barto said.
Barto has sponsored four houses, each one for an employee.
“I work in a organization with 80 percent women. I have a lot of single moms and we’ve been able to help four of those women have stable housing to raise their families in. To me, that’s an obligation,” Barto said.