Michelle Wilson and her three children started driving by their new house in April, when it was just a slab of concrete and a driveway in the quiet subdivision a few miles south of downtown.
It would be months before they could open the red front door, walk into the bedrooms – one for each of them – and see the marigolds blooming in the window boxes.
On Friday, the family got its first look at their completed house, built in just one week as part of Habitat for Humanity of Wake County’s Home Builders Blitz.
It was worth the wait.
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“I feel blessed. It’s an awesome experience,” Wilson said as she and her children toured the house, the first that’s all theirs.
Habitat for Humanity of Wake County builds safe, affordable houses for qualified homebuyers who contribute hundreds of volunteer hours to the organization, take classes and then get a 20-year mortgage.
The nonprofit built five houses as part of the 2015 blitz, all in a row along a street in Southeast Raleigh’s Crosstowne neighborhood.
Local builders work with subcontractors and other vendors to provide the materials and labor to build each house.
Doug DeWitt, special projects manager for Savvy Homes and chairman of the blitz, said the program is a natural fit for builders. Every year, when families see their houses for the first time, he’s reminded of how much the homes mean to people who, in most cases, don’t have much.
“I don’t care how tough you think you are, it’s going to put a tear in your eye,” DeWitt said.
The international blitz program began in Wake County in 2002, the brainchild of local builder Tom Gipson, a member of a Habitat advisory group.
That year, the blitz resulted in 12 houses. The next year, there were 24. That’s when Gipson approached the national Habitat for Humanity organization, which picked up the concept.
Since then, Habitat chapters have built nearly 1,800 houses through the blitz program. Last week alone, they built 200.
Gipson said builders are always glad for the chance to participate.
“This gives them a great opportunity to use their special skills to give something really meaningful back to the community,” he said.
The first phase of the Crosstowne neighborhood has 79 lots, but only about 25 homes were built before the recession. Habitat acquired the rest of the land and plans to complete the subdivision.
The organization also owns adjacent land that has 65 lots, but the staff hasn’t decided yet whether to sell the land or build on it, said Kevin Campbell, president of Wake Habitat.