(2002) Habitat Home #11: Weldon

(2002) Habitat Home #11: Weldon

Weldon family's dreams come true on Dec 18, 2002

ROANOKE RAPIDS -- The bright balloons tied to the railing let passersby know that something special was happening at 504 Chestnut St. in Weldon, Sunday afternoon. Months of hard work were rewarded and a family's cherished dream fulfilled with the dedication of the 11th Halifax-Northampton Habitat for Humanity house.

Melessa and Anthony Brown first learned about Habitat for Humanity through an article in the Daily Herald describing a Littleton family who received a house through the program. The young couple were very interested, wanting to move somewhere where their son Tony would have room to play. They submitted an application and waited to hear if they would be approved.

According to Pearl Jones, a Habitat homeowner and spokesperson for the program, the process is not easy and there is a waiting list for homes in the area. The applicant(s) must be steadily employed, and "great need" must be demonstrated. "Either the family lives in a house that is overcrowded, or very run down," she explained.

In the Browns' case there is a special consideration. Melessa suffers from cerebral palsy, a condition that affects muscular control. She uses a wheelchair and her speech can be difficult to understand at times.

Connie Kinnan is one of Melessa's nurses. She said that when Melessa got the notice saying the family had been approved, the two of them "got to crying so hard we couldn't open it," and had to wait for Anthony to get home to read it.

That was back in February -- the beginning of a months-long process.

As part of the Habitat program, the Browns were required to take classes on home maintenance and money management. Their excitement about owning their own home made the classes interesting, according to Melessa.

The city of Weldon donated the property, and hundreds of hours of work by dozens of volunteers brought the Browns' dream into reality.

According to Habitat director John Sing, the Halifax/Northampton chapter has a core group of about 12 volunteers who work steadily on each home. Additional organizations often donate their time for a few days or a week of work. He said that workers on the Browns' house included a group from Florida, and one from a Virginia church.

Diane Bell, Bridget Carrington and Tosha Crosse of Roanoke Chapel Baptist helped paint the house. It was their first experience with Habitat, but "we'd like to be involved with future projects," said Carrington.

Recipients of Habitat for Humanity homes are required to put in hundreds of hours of "sweat equity" on the house. A photo album put together by the couple detailing the construction of the house shows Anthony working with a hammer in his hand, as well as Melessa overseeing the work.

"Melessa was out there with a little umbrella every day they worked on the site during the summer -- watching every nail being driven in," said Habitat board member Betty Boyd. Boyd is trying to get a Scotland Neck Habitat group started and said that seeing the Browns and their home was inspirational. "It makes you know it's possible."

The freshly painted home was filled with friends and well-wishers Sunday afternoon. Ministers Robert Alves and David Haley blessed the house and Habitat board members were introduced and thanked for their efforts.

Using technology that provides a computer-generated voice for the words she types in, Melessa thanked everyone "for making our dream come true." She thanked her husband for his love and support, saying, "without him, I don't think I'd be here. The past year has been an inspiration."

Although the house was dedicated Sunday, paperwork and other details yet to be completed mean the family won't be moving into the house until later this week.

Melessa's future plans include finishing a book about her life, including her family and the obstacles she has had to overcome. Anthony is currently employed part-time by Little Caesar's pizza, but looking for a full-time job.

Their more immediate plans include furnishing their home. Melessa wants to get a Christmas tree up, even if they don't end up moving into the house until after the 25th.

Their son Tony is looking forward to having something else in the house. What else could a 6-year-old boy want besides a new home and yard to play in?

"A puppy."

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