Leap of Faith

Published 1:36 pm Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Everyone involved in the Escambia County Habitat for Humanity’s most recent build in the Nokomis Community, stepped out on faith and were greatly rewarded.

Eight weeks ago, Habitat officials embarked on the non-profit organization’s first-ever build in the Atmore area, while taking on a new group of volunteers to make owning an affordable home a realty for one local family. In the beginning, there were a lot of unknowns, but by the time the last nail had been hammered, much more than the construction of a house had been accomplished.

Sunday, Alecia Glaize, executive director for the Escambia County Habitat for Humanity, welcomed those on hand at the latest home dedication ceremony prior to introducing the proud new homeowners, but she was not wearing her usual attire for the occasion.

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“I don’t usually wear a T-shirt for our dedication ceremonies, but I decided yesterday to wear this T-shirt because the slogan, ‘Stepping Out on Faith,’ and the map of the whole county represents so much of what this build is all about,” she said. “This is the first Habitat build that we’ve done outside of the Brewton area, the first one since we expanded. ‘Stepping Out on Faith’ certainly represents what this build was all about. It was a step of faith to expand to serve the whole county; it was a step of faith to build out here, so far away from our headquarters; to build a different kind of house and to build with different volunteers. It’s been a leap of faith, but we have been rewarded in so many ways.”

Jennifer Dorriety and her daughter, Kaylee, who put in countless hours of sweat equity required by Habitat, are the newest home recipients after Habitat officials handed over the keys to their brand new home on Johnson Road during the ceremony.

“First off, I thank God for letting this happen,” Dorriety said as she fought back tears. “I thank all of you for being here and I also want to thank all of the sponsors. For this to even start is just amazing. You just would not believe what it has done for Kaylee’s life and mine. Rusty (Miller), I thank you; you have done an amazing job. I saw the house on paper and to actually see it everyday get better and better, and to see it today, I am on cloud nine; you just wouldn’t believe it. I’m ecstatic.”

Not only did Dorriety have to challenge herself physically, putting in more than double the required 400 sweat equity hours 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.

During the dedication, Glaize praised Dorriety for her devotion and work ethic to not only her home build, but also previous builds, which earned her the opportunity for her own home.

“All of our Habitat families are special to us, but Jennifer and Kaylee have become extra special partly because of the personal obstacles that Jennifer has had to overcome to get to this point and to have this house here,” Glaize said. “And partly because this woman works like a Trojan. She looks like a girly girl right now, but she has got incredible work ethic and she has put so much of her own blood, sweat and tears into this house that she has made it extra special for all of us.”

As with all Habitat dedications, Dorriety was presented a Bible by Amanda Hines, president of Habitat’s board, to be used in her home; a hammer used during the build by Rusty Miller, construction coordinator for Habitat, as a symbol of the work that goes into the house; keys to the home presented by Elsie Butler, member of the board of directors and Dorriety’s liaison to the board and building committee and a symbolic mortgage presented by Debbie Hardee, treasurer for the Habitat board.

During his presentation, Miller touched on another first of the home build that Auburn University students had designed the plans for the house.

“This is going to be a real energy efficient house and we are anxious to see if the actual numbers meet the prototype numbers that the students did,” he said.

Miller also reminded those that the Dorriety home was the first to be built “off grade” or on pillars.

Following the ribbon cutting, Daniel Beeker, one of the students who helped design the home, surprised volunteers and Dorriety by making the trip from his hometown of Alexander City to present the family with a framed, color artist rendering of the home.

“Our sincere hope from Auburn University is that we have created with the Escambia County Habitat for Humanity a home place for you,” Beeker said. “A place that serves as a safe harbor when life gets rough, that serves as a stage for all of yours and Kaylee’s victories and successes and that always contributes to the richness of your life and never takes away from it. So many, many happy years.”

The Dorrietys spent their first night Sunday evening in their new home; one that Jennifer Dorriety admitted did not involve much sleep.

“It was amazing,” she said Monday. “I just kept walking around and looking. Everything is so beautiful and overwhelming; it’s just perfect. I’ve walked in and out working, but to actually walk in and it be to myself, it was amazing. I couldn’t sleep because of the excitement. To wake up there this morning, it was unbelievable.”

With 24 hours to grasp hold of her emotions, Dorriety noted that the dedication ceremony was a “really nice” ending to a whirlwind of a build.

“I am very appreciative of everybody,” she said. “I was nervous at first, but the kindness and generosity continued to flow from the citizens of Atmore and the county. It’s been a continuation from the start to the end; we’ve had so many dedicated people. It’s like a dream and I just woke up.”

Now the Dorrietys will spend the next couple of days packing up their old home and unpacking in their new one. In fact, they are giving back to family members and those in need of household items they are no longer in need of, including their old mobile home that Jennifer Dorriety is giving to a neighbor in need who just lost her husband to cancer.

“I want to continue to help everyone I can,” she said. “This experience has been a blessing.”

Everything leftover, Dorriety plans on donating to The We Care Program.

Above, Habitat for Humanity home recipient Jennifer Dorriety and her daughter, Kaylee pose for a photo in their new kitchen. Top, Elsie Butler hands over the keys. | Photo by Adam Prestridge