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Helping Hands

There were a lot of unknowns when the Escambia County Habitat for Humanity decided to stretch its tape measures from Brewton to Atmore while planning its 17th home build just over a year ago.

Those worries quickly dissipated for executive director Alecia Glaize and volunteers for the non-profit Christian organization as support for the inaugural Atmore area build grew quickly with numerous sponsors pledging funds and volunteers stepping up to swing a hammer.

Friday, months of planning became a reality as work on Jennifer Dorriety and her daughter, Kaylee’s, home began with floor joists and walls being installed as a skeleton of the structure quickly became evident.

“It’s amazing to think that expanding countywide and to be working out here was literally a dream just over a year ago,” Glaize said Friday morning at the construction site on Johnson Road in the Nokomis community. “There were some that thought it wouldn’t work, that Brewton and Atmore were too spread apart. There were a lot of obstacles to overcome, and we’ve overcome them.”

Prior to a ribbon cutting celebration sponsored by the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce, Glaize addressed the volunteers thanking them for helping make the first Atmore build a success.

“I feel that we will be able to serve so many more people this way,” she said. “The support from the people in Atmore, from the chamber, the mayor, the Leadership Class of 2010, the businesses and civic organizations has all been a blessing. When we decided to expand, we didn’t want to do any less in Brewton. We’ve been building one house in Brewton a year for the past 12 years, so to be able to expand and build in Atmore while still building in Brewton has taken a lot of commitment from Atmore with financial support and volunteers and it has all been there.”

Jim Reece, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Atmore, then led the group in prayer asking for the “safety and well being” of the volunteers during the duration of the construction and cited Psalms 34:1 “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Dorriety was then introduced to the volunteers and offered a tearful thank you to them all.

“I want to thank each and every one of you and the sponsors,” she said as she wiped away tears. “I thank God for this, it’s just a blessing. It’s so overwhelming.”

Rusty Miller, construction coordinator for Habitat, then addressed the volunteers and spoke on safety measures and expressed his appreciation for their help.

“We are going to make all these sticks into a home, not a house,” he said while propped on a stack of lumber.

Miller also addressed the “challenges” the home poses since it is not being built on a concrete slab like the 16 houses prior to it have. The Dorriety’s home is being built on a raised pier foundation.

Glaize added that the foundation is not the only unique aspect of the home build.

“This is very different for us,” she said. “The home is being built on the homeowners’ land. Normally we buy lots wherever we can find inexpensive lots or lots that are donated. Building out in a rural area is different for us too.”

Glaize said the cost of the home, which will be just less than 1,000 square feet, is approximately $50 per square foot.

“We sell the house to the selected homeowner at what it actually costs to build the house” Glaize said. “We don’t make any profit. What is an additional blessing for the homeowner is that we offer a 20-year, no interest loan.”

To earn her home, Dorriety has put in nearly double the required 400 hours of sweat equity required by home recipients. Her determination to earn a safe home for her and her daughter has inspired many.

“Her work ethic is incredible,” Glaize said. “She has the energy of two people. She came every weekend to the home build in Brewton last fall. She was one of the first to arrive each day and one of the last to leave.”

Not only did Dorriety have to challenge herself physically to become a homeowner, she also had to face her fears. When she was 12 years old, Dorriety’s stepfather was murdered by her uncle — and as a witness, she had to testify against him. Many years later, Dorriety’s grandfather died, leaving property to Dorriety’s mother, aunts and uncles. To become owner of the land — the first step needed toward her dream of home ownership — Dorriety had to seek signatures from eight aunts and uncles, including the uncle she had watched kill her stepfather.

“What’s she’s done to get to this point today is amazing,” Glaize said. “She has overcome a lot of personal obstacles.”

Knowing firsthand how hard the work is to build a Habitat Home is, Dorriety said that makes her that much more grateful for the volunteers working on her home.

“This is very hard work with the heat the way it is,” she said. “This takes a toll on a lot of people. For people to give time and hours in 90-degree weather, that says a lot about the citizens and their willingness to give is just amazing.”

That willingness to help her has given Dorriety a deeper love for her hometown.

“It makes me proud of Atmore, proud to be a citizen of Atmore,” she said. “For them to give the hours, sweat, and kindness put forth, it has proven to me that Atmore is a strong town.”

As for her future with Habitat, Dorriety has no plans to hang up her tool belt anytime soon.

“Habitat has done so much for me, I want to put forth every minute I can to help,” she said. “Even when my house is done I’ve told Habitat that they will always have my support and I will continue to help them build houses. They have taught me a lot. I actually have enjoyed learning how to build. Me being helpful to other people has come back to me. I will continue to help Habitat as long as I am able.”

Glaize said plans are to have the home finished by the end of June. Work will continue today and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Additional workdays include Friday, May 28, and Saturday, May 29, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and every Saturday until work is complete.

As for Dorriety’s first plans in her new home, she said she would have to get past her emotions first.

“I’ll probably cry,” she said. “I’ll be so excited. To have something stable will be a blessing.”

After her journey, she will most definitely have family and a host of new friends to share tears with her as she moves into her new home.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers, from left, Ellis Beachy, Adam Gassner and Neil Stanford unload trusses Friday morning during the first Atmore build for Jennifer Dorriety in the Nokomis community. | Photo by Adam Prestridge