CONCORD — The first thing Ciera Butler wants to do in her new home is get her kids settled in and ready to play.
Habitat for Humanity Cabarrus County helped welcome single-mom Butler and her two children to their new home in Concord on Thursday afternoon.
“The first thing I want to do is make the house more mine, getting the kids out here so they can play and enjoy it,” Butler said while holding the new house keys.
Before being accepted into the homeownership program, Butler and her children were living in an apartment without enough room for the three of them. It had a mold problem that would not go away, no matter how hard Butler tried.
But while working fulltime at Amazon, Butler put in over 300 hours of sweat equity and attended all required homeownership and financial classes. All of those are part of the program to help Butler with her new home and affordable mortgage.
Butler was not alone while receiving her keys. In addition to her daughter, Butler’s best friend, Tanya Evans, was there to give the benediction.
“I have witnessed firsthand the struggles my dear friend has experienced, and I have also marveled at the goodness of the Lord recurring in her life,” Evans said.
Butler said she is proud her kids finally have a place to call home.
“We can finally live comfortably. They can have their own space,” Butler said while standing on the back deck. “They can always have a home and never have to go through any of the challenges in life without a place to call home.”
Butler said she was worried when she applied for the program because she wasn’t sure if she would qualify, but once she did, she got to work and kept grinding to provide a better home for her kids.
“I had a few homeowners tell me about the program, and they stayed on me. At first I didn’t think I would be able to qualify for it. Sometimes it just means taking a leap of faith and going out there,” she said. “I have faced a lot of challenges in my life. Just having patience and having courage is what got me here.”
For Habitat Cabarrus, this project, like several others, had some stalls due to the pandemic, said Ward Childress, second vice president of the Habitat Cabarrus board.
Volunteers weren’t always able to participate, and having a limited number of people able to congregate also meant smaller working crews to build the homes. But now that crowd limits and social distancing guidelines are shifting, Childress said, he is grateful to be able to celebrate Butler’s homecoming in person.
“Getting folks out to the home sites, build and meet the homeowners, is really a special part of Habitat Cabarrus, and not being able to do that was challenging, so it is just fantastic to be able to do that in person now,” Childress said.
While all houses are funded through donations, Butler’s home was funded through a single, anonymous donor. Habitat Cabarrus utilizes donations and volunteers to help build homes in the community. The pandemic has made that process a little harder, not only due to social distancing but also because of the financial impact of COVID-19.
As Childress addressed the crowd gathered in Butler’s new living room, he thanked all of the Weekday Warriors, those who come out two days a week to help build, for their time and effort into the construction.
“It has been a lot of work this past year for everyone who has been able to work at the site. We haven’t been able to have volunteers as much,” he said, looking around the room. “It is tougher for a community to build in that regard, but being able to come out and celebrate today is fabulous.”
Concord Mayor Bill Dusch was also in attendance Thursday and said he was glad to see another family in the community with a quality home.
“Everybody needs a quality place to live,” he said. “The way Habitat has been working, and the way we have been working as a city, it is one of the best ways that we can put resources together, to make sure people have quality housing.”
In the city’s last budget, some revenue was allocated to affordable housing, which would go toward projects like Habitat Cabarrus and the newly established Concord Family Enrichment Association.
Habitat Cabarrus’ new executive director, Bill Shelton, was also in attendance. While he had planned to be an observer for the house dedication, he said he felt moved after watching how the community came together to support Butler. At the end of the dedication, he explained that he grew up in the projects of Detroit and had started out in a rough neighborhood but was blessed by his community as he came up in life.
Hearing Butler’s story, he said, is what life and community is all about.
“When you witness something like this, and you witness people who are taking time out of their schedule to celebrate you and hear your stories,” Shelton said, “when you come here and you see this, this is why people do what they do. This is why people extended beyond all economic levels, socio, cultural, racial levels, to do things like this, because this is what life is really about. It is about helping each other out to have a better life.”