Construction continues on Grove Avenue in Erwin. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

The Habitat for Humanity of Unicoi County is in need of volunteers to assist with their most recent home building project. After finishing their first home building project in 2002, this will make the affiliate’s fourth home they have constructed for a family in need.

The location for the newest home under construction is 611 Grove Ave., directly behind the Fire Department. The groundwork for the project was started in May, and the home is expected to be finished in the next few months. However, the local nonprofit is seeking additional support to complete the project in a timely manner.

The home will be benefiting Monica Tipton, a single mother from Erwin, who works as a resident assistant at Governor’s Bend Retirement and Assisted Living. Tipton lives with her son Brayden Tipton, 4, and applied for assistance from Habitat for Humanity back in 2015.

“I knew that they helped low income families get on their feet, and I figured I’d give it a shot,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to just go through a bank and get a home loan.”

Tipton had applied with Habitat for Humanity one other time, but she did not make it all the way through the application process the first time. Contrary to what one may expect, the application process may take a while.

“It’s not a free house, that’s a misconception,” said Brian Poston, volunteer coordinator. “All recipients have to qualify, meaning they don’t have any debt, they have to have held a job for awhile, and live inside of Unicoi County. It’s really just a leg up for some families.”

Recipients are still responsible for the mortgage and paying property taxes. Tipton says that she is excited to start paying on something that will be her own.

“It’s a privilege for us to be chosen for this, it’s going to be a good change that my son and I are both excited for,” she said. “He’s so ready to be in there.”

According to Rene Taylor, a member of the construction team, skilled contractors have been working through the week on tasks like electrical, plumbing and flooring work. Around four to five volunteers have been coming out each Saturday, but as the home nears completion more assistance is needed.

“We are at a point where we would like to have more volunteers, and you don’t have to be experienced or have your own tools,” he said. “We provide everything you need, but if you are experienced and have your own tools then by all means feel free to bring them.”

Due to the Habitat for Humanity of Unicoi County’s small size, every hour of assistance and every dollar donated is crucial to completing projects such as this. The local affiliate has  no paid staff, and aside from a few small administrative costs, every donation goes towards building a home.

“Unicoi County is considered a very small affiliate, we have less than $20,000 in revenue each year,” said Melissa Tipton, Treasurer of the Board for Habitat for Humanity of Unicoi County. “It takes us a while to raise the $100,000 to build a home, but we try to set a goal of building a house every year or two.”

The majority of funds that the local affiliate receives comes from local businesses, other organizations and support from churches in the area. United Way, the Erwin Kiwanis Club, the Town of Erwin, the Town of Unicoi, NN Inc., and Centenary United Methodist Church are all covenant partners that assist Habitat for Humanity of Unicoi County.

Tipton and other members on the Board would like to see the number of volunteers each Saturday increase to eight to ten people, and hopefully closer to 15 to 20 volunteers as they get closer to the end of construction. An on-site foreman and skilled workers will be present each week to help train those with little or no construction experience.

Local churches typically donate lunch for volunteers, although for those unable to help with construction, they can contribute by providing lunches or running errands. Volunteers are also needed to help with ‘Brushes with Kindness’, where smaller home maintenance projects such as painting or outside repairs are performed for families in need.

“I think everyone really deserves a chance at homeownership, and some people just need a little help with that,” Poston said. “It’s nice to see a young lady and her son get the opportunity to own a house.”

Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to stop by Brian Poston’s local State Farm Insurance Office at 1072 N. Main Ave., or give him a call at 956-4606. For families wanting applications to receive a home build or a ‘Brush with Kindness’, call the Habitat for Humanity of Unicoi County Office at 330-6357. Donations can be mailed to 203 N. Elm Ave., Erwin.