Home Local News ‘A DREAM COME TRUE’: Habitat dedicates new home in Hamlet

‘A DREAM COME TRUE’: Habitat dedicates new home in Hamlet

New Habitat for Humanity homeowner Mark Carlisle, center, speaks to United Way of Richmond County Executive Director Michelle Parrish, left, and the Rev. Dian Griffin JacksonDavis during a dedication on March 31.
Photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

HAMLET — For Mark Carlisle, owning his own home instead of renting is a “dream come true.”

A tornado watch and thunderstorm warning didn’t stop Habitat for Humanity of the N.C. Sandhills from dedicating Carlisle’s new home in the Briarwood neighborhood early Tuesday afternoon.

“I still think I’m dreaming,” he said.

The front porch was lined with shoes as leaders from Habitat and across Richmond County stood sock-footed in the empty living room of the 2-bedroom, 900-square-foot home on Rosemont Avenue.

“I’ve been wanting to own my own home for the last four to five years,” Carlisle said as the crowd cleared out, “because the rent in Richmond County is ridiculous.”

Carlisle, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but raised in Richmond County, said he was told about the program through a friend who was a recipient of a Habitat home — “so I gave it a try.”

Habitat homeowners don’t get their houses for free, but rather purchase them through a “guaranteed affordable mortgage.”

To qualify for the program, potential homeowners — who likely wouldn’t qualify for a traditional mortgage — have to be between 30-60% of the county’s median income and a debt-to-income ratio lower than 43%, according to Executive Director Amie Fraley.

“It took me about three or four years to get qualified,” Carlisle said.

In addition to taking monthly classes on how to be a homeowner, recipients must also contribute “sweat equity,” either by volunteering on other Habitat builds or in the ReStore.

Carlisle said that he helped work on the Raleigh Street “recycled” home for Amber Baldwin in 2001, as well as others in both Richmond and Moore counties.

Baldwin and Aurilla Shaw both became Habitat homeowners in 2021.

This makes the 17th Habitat build in Richmond County since 2005.

Construction on Carlisle’s home began last September on the United Way Day of Caring.

Volunteer groups included those from the county government, the fraternity Omega Psi Phi, and local companies Enviva and von Drehle.

Included among the well-wishers Thursday were Commissioners Tavares Bostic and Justin Dawkins.

Bostic said he and other fraternity brothers volunteered their time on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“I’ve known Mark for years and years,” Bostic said. “He’s super deserving of something like this, and we want to see good people blessed with good things like this. “For every hand that was a part of this build, it’s just a blessing. It really shows a strength of community.”

Dawkins, director of operations of von Drehle’s Cordova plant, said not only did the company have a team to assist with the build, but, starting in April, will have a group performing maintenance once a month at Habitat homes.

Sponsors of the Rosemont build were Enviva, United Way of Richmond County and First United Methodist Church.

Carlisle plans to move into his new home next week.

This isn’t the only Habitat home in the neighborhood — with the 2018 Women Build project at the corner of Curtis Avenue and North Street — and it won’t be the last.

Fraley said there are plans to build on the lot behind Carlise’s home on Brantley Avenue and Habitat recently purchased a lot nearby on Ellenton Avenue.

There are four new applicants in Richmond County who were recently approved, Fraley said, adding that Habitat is also working on “bigger land deals.”

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The Sandhills chapter will be able to help finance those projects thanks to a recent donation from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

The local group was one of 84 Habitat affiliate organizations — one of eight in North Carolina — to receive their share of $436 million in “unrestricted giving” from Scott. Sandhills Habitat was allocated $3.5 million.

“So we are super excited to be putting probably about a third of that to work in Richmond County,” Fraley said. “We’ve got some big plans on large-tract developing that we’ll be able to do and that’ll help us serve many more families.

Habitat is currently averaging about one house per year, but Fraley said they’d like to “ramp that up” to three or four.

Aside from home building, Habitat has also been focusing on home repairs in Richmond County, especially in Dobbins Heights.

“Enviva has been a supporter of the Dobbins Heights Restoration Project for the past five years,” Jacob Westfall, communications and public relations manager for the wood pellet plant, said in an email. “We continue to support that project. This opportunity is the first time Enviva has been able to partner on a new home build.”

Habitat posted a video to its Facebook page on March 28 of a porch being repaired in the Little Philadelphia community.

In August of 2021, Fraley said Habitat had performed about 20 home repairs using funds from the Urgent Repair Program awarded the previous year by the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. The group had also received a $100,000 Home Preservation Grant from the USDA and secured more than $500,000 from outside the county — in addition to donations from local businesses and organizations.

“We’re excited about the increased work we’re doing here, and we couldn’t have done it without you,” Fraley told the crowd.

To learn how to apply for a Habitat home, repairs or to volunteer, visit sandhillshabitat.org, or call 910-295-1934.