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 11 is about about other sweat equity opportunities she took part in. For previous parts, click here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8Part 9, and Part 10.

While the program typically requires every homeowner to earn their sweat equity in the ReStore and on the build site, sometimes, other opportunities come up. Some are built into the program as extra options–children’s good grades can earn partner families some hours–and others come up with special events. Whitney took part in both kinds, attending NOAHH’s First Time Homebuyer’s Presentations to help encourage others to join the program and helping the ReStore with the major Orgill donation in February.

Homebuyer’s Presentations are a chance for those interested in the program to learn about it before applying, to ask questions of our Family Services department, and to meet with current partner families and homeowners and hear first hand accounts of the program. Like many partner families in the program, Whitney is enthusiastic about sharing it.

“I’m just like, ‘Come get a house. Come get a house! Stop renting,'” she said. “The last presentation, I went to, we’re about to start wrapping up, and then next thing you know there’s like 8 people, so we’re excited. These little ballerina girls–they’re like 5 years old, and she walks in. ‘What’s going on in here?’ she said, and we said, ‘We’re trying to get people in houses. Give this to your mama!’ and she says,’Okay!’ I’m always saying, ‘Come on people, get a house!’ One of my friends, she lives with her mom right now. Her and her mom get into it all the time. And I’m just telling her, ‘Get. A. House.’ You can have your own and not have to worry about it anymore. I gave her all the information, like ‘This is all you have to do.’ I had all the brochures and stuff. I had them scanned so I could just email them to people when they ask me. That was the same thing as a woman at the last presentation we did. She came up to us afterwards, and she was asking if it was okay, beause she had applied to the program before but she couldn’t do it then. We told her, ‘Yeah, go back!’ I’ll start passing out pamphlets. ‘Here. Here. Here. Go get one. Here. Go get one.’ It’s like ‘I exist, you can exist too. Go get a house.'”

The Orgill donation came from the Orgill Dealer’s Market, a convention of vendors for a major independent hardware store supplier. In 2015, the convention donated materials used at the convention for display purposes, and they contacted NOAHH again in 2017 for their newest convention, which took up every hall of the Morial Convention Center. The convention took place in the lead up to Mardi Gras, and parades made it hard to reach the convention center.

“I guess we didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “My mom was excited about it because she was like ‘Oh good it’s not construction.’ So when I got them on board it was great. We show up–it was bad enough with the traffic getting there because of all the parades going on. We show up and we didn’t even go in first. We stood out in the foyer talking about safety and all that. There’s all this power equipment running around, and I’m asking, ‘Uh okay what is this?’ Then I got the first glimpse inside and I’m just thinking ‘Oh okay it’s not too bad.’ And then they told us, ‘Oh we got the whole convention center, all the way down there.’ Because we were at one end and were thinking, ‘Uh all the way down there?!’ So we walk in and we’re wondering, ‘What kind of stuff are people donating to the store?’ So it’s like ‘Okay what’s the game plan? Okay these are ours. We’re gonna take all of the stuff that’s marked for Habitat, and we’re gonna put it in these carts.’ You go booth to booth. It’s like somebody took down about four Walmart’s and gave everything to Habitat.”

It took several days to complete the donation pickup. ReStore staff, partner families, and volunteers worked through the weekend to process everything.

“The first day we did 16 palettes,” she said. “Actually I think we did 16 by lunchtime. The next day we were in the 20s. Just going aisle to aisle, making palettes in the aisles and just wrapping them cause running them all the way down to the other end was just getting tiresome, because we’re getting to the other half at this point. It was just so much stuff. It was getting ridiculous. From sets of forks to a ninja building. It was fun. A lot of hard work though. Especially because we did Saturday and Sunday, so we went from 3-10 p.m. and then came back at 7 a.m. the next day. So we’re tired, needless to say. It was exhausting, but exciting at the same time, because we were looking at all this stuff, especially my mama cause she tends to get excited about stuff. But it was exciting. And [fellow partner family] Melvin was over there too. I really want to do that again. One day, not two. And as long as it’s not Endymion weekend, it’s fine. That was the first thing I thought is, ‘oh man it is Endymion weekend?’ Then I checked it and it was all right.”

For those not from the New Orleans area or familiar with Carnival season, Mardi Gras is a major holiday. There are parades, parties, and special events leading up to the big day, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, during Carnival season. The parades are run by krewes, each of which has their own style and themes. Whitney’s plans for Carnival were simple, but she was enthusiastic about everything. She also made plans for what to do with her Mardi Gras beads (thrown at every parade during Carnival season to parade-goers and partiers).

“Just parades. Parades all day every day,” she said. “I don’t really have a favorite anymore. It used be to be Endymion. Endymion used to be the one. Then Muses got on the scene, and I’m like ‘Yeah!’ Now Krewe of Nix has the top spot for the women’s parade. And Krewe de’Tat, because I’m pulling for political science. I love political satire in parades. I should’ve gone to Krewe de Vieux, but I missed that one. Second lines and king cake–oh my gosh king cake. And king cake burgers. I just went to the king cake festival. Most of my family, they’re saying, ‘Oh I don’t feel like going anymore,’ and I’m telling them, ‘Bye.’ Rolling out with my chair. Sometimes I don’t even take a chair. I’m just like, ‘Whatever I’m here. Just gotta find parking and I’m here.’ I recently did get rid of all the [old beads] I had in my house from the last Mardi Gras. We just started a donation, so now I know where the next ones are gonna go. I keep the special ones, and then, this is a New Orleans tradition I swear, every house has that one mirror. Put all the specialty beads on that corner. And then all of the bad beads–I used to like make things out of them. Keychains and stuff like that. But I don’t do that anymore. But part of my house decorations will be Mardi Gras beads. Certain colors of them. So I’m gonna be collecting for that.”

She’s also using the Orgill donation to plan for her new home.

“And of course I’ve been coming back to the store to shop for the stuff,” she said, “because they have nice stuff. I was up there picking out patio furniture. I don’t even have a patio yet, y’all. I did come through the other day. I bought some dishes and went home with a bunch of stuff. I have a whole bunch of stuff in my room ready to be boxed up. Just waiting. At first I just had this one plastic tub of everything that had nothing to do with this house and was going to the other. So now I have stuff sitting on top of that tub. I’ve gathered a bunch of boxes. I have people at work collecting boxes for me. One of my coworkers just gave me a bunch of packing material, and I’m telling her, ‘You’re the MVP.’ Bubble wrap and all that can be expensive. So yeah, I’m shopping. I’m shopping hard. Just looking. It’s not necessarily buying, because I’m trying to stick to that budget. Dishes that I brought home from California that I hadn’t even looked at in the last year. It’s nice stuff, too.”