Brunswick Habitat begins work on 50th house

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By Brian Slattery

SOUTHPORT — Brunswick County Habitat for Humanity hit a milestone last month when work began on its 50th house.

On Aug. 27, the nonprofit organization hosted an official kickoff to construction on the first Habitat house in Southport.

The house is being built for single mother Kelli Rhyne and her daughter, Shea Campbell.

“I want to thank everyone for their support. Your generosity is overwhelming,” Rhyne told the audience at the building kickoff. “It’s great to be in the Habitat community. My daughter and I are so happy to have this house. We are going to maintain it and give it love.”

Rhyne has lived in Southport, where she works as a hairdresser, for eight years.

“I got involved when a customer encouraged me. She knew I was renting and said I should go for this,” she said. “I thought I’d get turned down, but I went through the application and interview process and was approved. One year later, here I am.”

Two decades, 50 homes

Habitat started building houses in Brunswick County in 1996 and has since built in Leland, Calabash, Ash, Oak Island and now Southport, said Deanna Antonio, Habitat executive director.

Habitat is about to complete the 48th Habitat house in Supply, and the 49th house is under construction in Shallotte.

Antonio said Habitat was looking for a special event for the 50th house, and it all came together in January when an ice storm kept the property owner, Steven Hardy, from leaving Southport. Instead, he walked into the Habitat offices and that began discussions about the properties.

“It all fell together,” Antonio said. “We had just had our homeowner approved and were looking for a Southport lot.”

Habitat bought seven plots in the same neighborhood thanks to Hardy, who offered them for about a third of their listed value.

“I was told a couple lots were bought here. They showed them to me to see if I was interested,” Rhyne said. “I work five minutes up the street.”

The same month, Antonio met Carol Zod of St. James Plantation’s service club who was looking for a way to remember St. James founder Homer Wright.

St. James became the sponsor for the construction of what will be Rhyne’s home.

“The service club got the whole St. James community involved, got their builders involved,” Antonio said. “It usually takes five months for a build, but with the builder support of St. James, this may be quicker.”

Pete Jansen, co-chairman of the St. James 50th house committee and a construction volunteer, said an army of St. James volunteers is ready to help through donations, landscaping and fundraising. The committee already raised $15,000 for the project.

“This is the kickoff to the actual construction. In a few short months, the dream of home ownership will happen for Kelli and her daughter,” Jansen said.

Habitat houses usually cost about $75,000 between the purchase cost of the property and construction.

Homeowner requirements to participate in the program include having established residence in Brunswick County for at least one year, income at 30 to 60 percent of the median family income in Brunswick County and a good credit history.

Habitat houses can range from 900-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath homes to 1,200-square-foot, four-bed, four-bath houses, depending on family size and needs.

As a single parent, Rhyne is required to put in 300 hours of “sweat equity” to help build the house. If partners are the recipients of the house, they are required to put in 500 hours.

Rhyne has begun working her 300 hours by volunteering at Southport Elementary School. Of her hours, at least 100 hours go into her house. Campbell, who just began sixth grade at South Brunswick Middle School, can also volunteer for 25 hours.

Ribbon cutting starts construction

Each Habitat house owner is assigned a mentor during the process.

For Rhyne, that mentor was also the woman who encouraged her to apply for the program in the first place, Barbara Teachey.

“Kelli is my hairdresser. She has been a friend since I moved here,” Teachey told the audience at the ribbon-cutting.

Habitat usually eschews ribbon cuttings at the start of construction for a “wall raising,” bringing the homeowners and volunteers together to see the first big step toward the completion of the house.

But the 50th Habitat house construction has been delayed because of the heavy rain Southport has experienced during the summer.

Habitat organizers instead unspooled a ribbon across the front of the property for Rhyne to cut as a kickoff to construction on the 1,056-square-foot, single-story ranch house, which was designed by Delina DeVoid of 3D Construction.

“I’m good with scissors,” Rhyne said.

Turnout for the start of the house construction was bolstered by members of Camp Habitat, the state-level Habitat for Humanity conference, which was held in Southport last week to visit the new house site.

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.