In 1976, a Christian couple by the names of Millard and Linda Fuller started an organization to address the issues of housing for low income families. They called their project Habitat for Humanity International.
Today, that organization is helping first time home buyers around the globe make the dream of owning their own home a reality. That privilege is even extended to low income families right here in Shelbyville thanks to Bedford Builds Habitat for Humanity.
On Saturday, Feb. 11, my wife and I had the privilege of attending a fundraiser for the local Habitat for Humanity organization. The 14th Annual Habitat Ball was held at the Blue Ribbon Circle and was attended by more than 200 people.
It was a wonderful event that had as its ultimate goal to raise enough money to build at least one more home this year for a Habitat family.
The highlight of the Ball for me (other than spending a delightful evening with my wife) was to hear from 20-year-old Julius Smythe, a young man who grew up in a home his mother was able to buy from Habitat for Humanity. Julius shared a personal story on behalf of his family
For the last 11 years, Julius and his sister and their mother have lived in a home that was built by the volunteers from Bedford County who donated their resources, time and energy to help with the project.
Julius shared with the Ball attendees just how much the help of Habitat has meant to him and his family. Before moving into their home they were residents in a Shelbyville Housing Authority apartment. But, home ownership was a dream Julius's mother had for years for her and her children. Habitat made her dream come true.
Julius remembered the many Saturdays when he was in elementary school that he would join his mother and sister as they would go to a building site and work on the home that would one day be theirs. They would join a group of volunteers as they worked together to build a dream.
Each of the families that are approved by the local Habitat group to receive an interest-free home loan to buy one of the houses have to agree to give a certain amount of "sweat equity" hours to work on building their home alongside the dedicated volunteers from around the community
There are so many people here in Bedford County that have helped make the dreams of many local families a reality; people who have carried on the vision of Millard and Linda Fuller.
Julius and his family are just one of many grateful families who have benefited from the efforts of Bedford County's caring people.
Julius made it a point to thank all of those many, many people in his testimonial.
At the Habitat Ball, people were given the opportunity to bid on a wide variety of items in the Silent Auction, everything from a set of tickets to a dinner theatre at the Fly (which I acquired) to box seats at the Celebration. Harold Segroves and David Craig auctioned off a number of pieces of jewelry, art and a vacation stay at the beach in the live auction. All proceeds from the auctions go toward the building of a home for a local family.
Lynn and I were thrilled to be able to attend this year's Habitat Ball. We enjoyed the wonderful meal prepared by Joe McCurry and his crew, the music provided by Four on the Floor, and the fellowship of the many friends that gathered together for a great cause.
The two churches where I serve, Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC, have been active over the years in helping Habitat for Humanity in a variety of ways. We were glad to represent our people at this year's Ball.
The late Millard Fuller, Habitat founder, once said, "I see life as both a gift and a responsibility. My responsibility is to use what God has given me to help his people in need."
All of us need to emulate Fuller's thoughts and use what we have been given to help others.
-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.