Celebrating 20 years

Whit Carpenter Community

The local Habitat for Humanity is celebrating 20 years in Morgan County and plans to continue build decent and affordable houses for families in the future.

“We average about one home per year,” said Christie Jones, the volunteer coordinator. In total, Habitat for Humanity has built over 20 houses in the county.

The organization is currently constructing a new residence on Whitehall Street. Habitat broke ground in May, and it started construction in June.

“We’re finishing up the interior walls. Next will be the roof trusses,” Jones said. “We plan to wrap up at the end of the year.”

When it comes to family selection, Habitat for Humanity has an application and review process based on the applicant’s level of need, their willingness to work with Habitat and their ability to repay a mortgage.

“We spend about three months vetting a family,” said Mike Conrads, president of Habitat for Humanity of Morgan County. “We want them to succeed.”

The applications are narrowed down to around six or seven. Finally, the family selection board interviews the final applicants to decide.

The chosen applicant is required to put in 200 hours of labor in sweat equity while building the house. They help construct the homes alongside volunteers and other Habitat recipients.

The selected family also has to attend training sessions for home maintenance, and budgeting and finance.

Habitat is currently searching for more housing sites in the county.

“We have very generous donors to help us select lots,” said Conrads. “A great example is the Whitehall construction. That was a partnership with [the Downtown Development Authority] and the city.”

Habitat is also looking to recruit more volunteers.

“We are 100 percent volunteers,” Conrads said. “It’s amazing to see the progress and the number of volunteers.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer can arrive at the construction site on Whitehall Street every Saturday between 7:30 to 11:30 in the morning. However, they are not working on July 7. The project will resume on July 14.signed an executive order to keep the families intact but in detention with the Department of Homeland Security. The order did not specify a plan to reunite more than 2,000 children currently detained with their parents. Critics worry that the order not only fails to reunite children with their parents, but also overlooks another moral conundrum by swapping one inhumane policy for another.

“The new executive order promises to keep families intact, but in extended government custody. We, concerned local citizens, call on our President to reunite the children with their families immediately, and we ask our elected Representatives to pass legislation NOW to require INS to keep families intact and free from confinement as they navigate the asylum process,” said Dufort.

Winfield noted immigration court is already overloaded with cases even before the Trump Administration enacted its “zero-tolerance” policy.

“There are 619,000 cases pending in immigration courts in the country,” Winfield said. “Where are these people going to wait?”

Audience members held up signs that read, “Do Unto Others” and “Compassion not Talking Points.”

Other people were invited to the microphone to read quotes condemning the administration’s current practice. Interspersed between these readings were celebratory songs like “This Land is Your Land”, “We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger and “Somos El Barco” by Peter, Paul and Mary. Terry Reeves-Martin led the crowd in singing.

Don Mosley, founder of Jubilee Partners in Comer, spoke about his experience offering hospitality to refugees and urged the community to act.

“Be part of the light end of that darkness,” Mosley said. “Act of that compassion.”

The speakers also mentioned several options to show support for the undocumented immigrants.

“The easiest way to help a cause is donations,” Winfield said. “To be able to hire attorneys to fight these cases. You can get together, hold meetings and write to congressmen.”

Dufort urged the crowd to channel their outrage into activism.

“We are also going to share some suggestions of some things we can do with our time and our money, so we aren’t just talking tonight and we are not just singing tonight and we are not just hugging one another tonight, but we are going to translate our anguish into action…to hopefully make a difference in our little corner of the world.”

Organizers of the event put together a brochure of organizations for people to considering donating to, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Immigration Council, The Center for Community Change, the Human Right Initiative of North Texas, Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Immigration Law Center, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

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