Apr 23, 2013 6:24 PM by MELISSA CANONE

WDC helps 3 Acadiana families with first-time homeownership

LAFAYETTE, LA. (April 23, 2013) --- Warrick Dunn Charities (WDC), a public non-profit serving single-parent families across the country continues to improve lives through its Homes for the Holidays (HFTH) program. In the spirit of spring, HFTH helped three Lafayette single mothers as they started their journey of first-time homeownership.

Sandra Joseph, her two sons, and her grand-daughter, had been living in a house that lacked heat and had poor insulation which resulted in large utility bills. She was approved to receive a Habitat for Humanity home, but was initially intimidated by the 300 sweat equity hours she needed to fulfill on the construction site.

"I kept my head up", explained Joseph. "I kept God first, but never thought I'd own my own home. Anyone can do this if you have faith and dreams, because they will come true".

On Wednesday morning, Joseph and her family finally received the keys to their new house but were shocked and thrilled to also be met by Warrick Dunn and WDC to find their new residence fully stocked and furnished with everything a first-time homeowner needs to start living comfortably.

"This is beautiful! It feels like a dream-- I love it! We just need our clothes to move in, everything else is here, the groceries, bedding, washer and dryer," said Joseph after she toured her new home.

Wanda George, the second HFTH recipient of the day, had actually been best friends with Joseph in high school when they worked at a restaurant together. Fate would have it that they met again at their first sweat equity shift on the Habitat construction site. Both new homeowners had gone down a very similar path of single motherhood. George had a son, daughter, and nephew whom she found it difficult to provide for.

"It was still rewarding", said George, about raising her family. "It made me a stronger, hardworking person. I was able to see my kids and nephew grow up and better themselves".

All of her hard work proved to pay off when she realized that her new house had been transformed into a home with all of their favorite colors and things.

"Never in my wildest dreams would I think I would own a house, and to have it furnished! It's just unbelievable," said George.

Warrick Dunn, limited partner of the Atlanta Falcons and Florida State alum began the HFTH program in 1997 during his rookie season in the NFL in honor of his late mother's dream of homeownership. Betty Smothers, a Baton Rouge police officer, was killed during an after hours security shift when Dunn was just 18 years old. Through HFTH, Dunn honors his mother by supporting single parents who have worked hard to provide a safe and secure place for their families through Habitat for Humanity.

The HFTH program has given single parents the extra boost they need to succeed as new homeowners but also emphasizes on providing adequate necessities for the children of these families. Through HFTH, children are introduced to safe housing, a fully stocked kitchen with nutritious food that influences healthy living and most importantly they have a space of their own where they can study and spend time as a family.

In addition to complete home furnishings and furniture provided by Aaron's Inc., HFTH also provides its recipients with $5,000 down-payment assistance, greatly lowering their monthly mortgage payments and providing extra money for things like doctor appointments or extra-curricular activities for the children.

Later that afternoon, WDC and supporters traveled to a familiar street where WDC has assisted three other families over the past couple of years. The third HFTH recipient of the day, Mary Lilly, adopted her sister's daughter, Miracle, hoping to be able give her a better life. To Lilly's dismay, however, she was unable to provide a nice home and safe neighborhood for her and her niece. They began the process of finding a suitable home by applying to Habitat for Humanity.
"The day I received the phone call about my acceptance into the program is simply memorable. Everything in my life seemed to be falling into place. It's as if everything was pushing me toward a better life", Lilly stated.

Lilly's 300 sweat equity hours were completed in near record-time, and her dream for her family finally came true on Wednesday when they learned that their new house was not only in a safe neighborhood, but it was completely furnished, including linens in their two bedrooms to match their styles, an office space, a stocked kitchen, and lawn equipment.

"You did all of this for us?," said Lilly as she walked into her new home for the first time.

To date, in partnership with Aaron's Inc., HFTH and its sponsors have rewarded 126 single parents and 341 children and dependents across the nation for achieving the American Dream of first-time homeownership.



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