From Partnership to Homeownership
Whitney Jett is a NOAHH partner family who started her partnership in June 2016. NOAHH will be following her story through the entire partnership and hopefully beyond. Part 5 is about her first day of sweat equity on the build site. For previous parts, click here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
“It was awesome. I’m in so much pain right now, but it was awesome.”
Whitney, her mother, her stepfather, and a family friend had taken their Saturday to help with painting and flooring at the future home of one of Whitney’s future neighbors on America Street. They worked alongside volunteers from Tulane University, NOAHH staff, and core volunteers on a warm September day.
“My mom got her friend to come out,” Whitney said. “She’s been a family friend for a long time, and she had said when we told her what was going on before that she would like to come out and join us for one day. I don’t think she’s coming back, because she’s sore, too. She enjoyed it, but she was exhausted.”
They accomplished a lot with their hard work. At the end of a long, hot day, the home they were building had most of its floors installed.
“We pretty much got two bedrooms and two-thirds of the living room done,” she said. “To say that none of that was down there when we got there, we did a lot. And the shelving hadn’t been up; now it’s up. It’s just a matter of painting it now. We did a lot.”
As a partner family, Whitney’s experience on site was different than most volunteers. When she learns a new skill, she’s learning how to take care of her future home. When she meets another partner family, she’s meeting her future neighbors. When she helps build a home, she has a better understanding of what the work means.
“Every time someone would drop a hammer on a floor board, “she said, “I would almost snap, because I know this is somebody’s house. You gotta take care of it. This could be my house. It didn’t leave a scratch or anything, but it’s just the idea–stop! Be careful!”
As she said before she got to the site, she wanted to learn about fixing flooring especially, and how to work with the right tools. On her first day on site, she got her chance. Like many volunteers and partner families, Whitney’s experience with construction was limited, but it proved to be no obstacle to seeing progress that first day.
“It was just me and this core volunteer Crawford [Malone], putting down an entire bedroom floor. Or I’m sitting there with a miter saw, and the staff is telling me I’m a natural. I’m all excited. ‘I did this! I did this!’ “I went there with the impression I was gonna learn something. I learned how to use a miter saw, and I learned how I’m actually okay with using a miter saw. I learned measuring and laying an entire floor of hard wood flooring, even though it was just tongue-and-groove, not nailing it in. Still, it was pretty difficult for somebody who’s never done it before. It was all new to me. None of it was something I had done before. Maybe next time I’ll do a little more with the power tools, but I was not ready to do it on Saturday. Not on day one. I’m already getting the miter saw down. I can do that.”
Along with Crawford, her teachers on site were NOAHH staff and AmeriCorps members Alyson, Chris, and Christina, all of whom often work with volunteers and partner families of varying degrees of experience. No Habitat build site is without a representative of the affiliate to guide the home-building process.
“I was glad they were there. [Site supervisor Alyson] was so sweet. She knew what she was doing with the flooring, so if we came across a problem, we would just go to her. She’d get us right back on track. We also had [AmeriCorps members] Chris and Christina. Chris was helping us with difficult cuts because I was very nervous about using the jigsaw or circular saw and all that. They were helpful. They were super sweet, and they kept us constantly with something to do. We didn’t just stand around. They always had the next project ready, sot hat made it go by so much faster. Next thing I know, it’s 3:30! We need to start cleaning up!”
As with all milestones on her journey to homeownership, this one had special resonance for her as she imagined what it meant for her and her future home.
“It was kinda like a second open house to me,” she said. “It wasn’t a finished house, but it’s like the walls are up and it’s a whole house! I’m looking at this layout, and I’m thinking, okay, this is different. This could be my layout, too. It was really sealing the deal. I’m gonna have a house, probably like this one. Probably like the other one one block from here. Picking the lot, that’s what really sealed it, because it’s like I have my address. I know my address now.”