By Bill DuPre, Habitat for Humanity NC
It’s a steep walk up the drive to Will and Savannah Alshaer’s new home in Mars Hill, NC. But once you’re there you can see a long way.
Vision was a big topic at the home’s dedication in late October. The tidy three-bedroom, two bath home is the first project in years for the Madison County Habitat for Humanity affiliate. It was built with help from the Asheville Habitat affiliate and a big boost from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation’s $10 million Mountains-to-the-Sea Challenge – to build a Habitat for Humanity home in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
“It’s been really great for us to be a part of bringing Habitat for Humanity back to Madison County,” said Andy Barnett, executive director of the Asheville Habitat affiliate. “A couple of years ago, SECU reached out to North Carolina” with an audacious idea to take Habitat to places in the state that had never benefited from Habitat’s global reach.
“No state has done this,” Barnett said. “But it did something even more important. It helped us look at our vision differently. Somehow Habitat for Humanity has figured how to work in 50 or 60 countries around the world but we haven’t figured out how to work together across the county line.”
That comment brought laughs from the dedication crowd, but Barnett was serious about the need. “To make sure that everywhere in our region benefits, we’re sharing the resources we have with each other to make sure that our mission that everyone has a place to call home can really happen. If that can happen in Guatemala and Bangladesh it ought to be able to happen in Madison and McDowell and Swain county.”
That’s where SECU’s vision created a spark.“Sometimes organizations just need a bit of push,” Barnett said. It was a big push for the Madison affiliate; once the Alshaer family assumes a zero-percent-interest loan from SECU, the money will be returned to the affiliate so that another home can be built.
For Savannah and Will, parents of Lyla and her younger sister Violet, move-in day, set for mid-November, will be a blessing. “Thank you to everybody who made this happen,” Savannah told the dedication crowd. “This is definitely a life-changing event. It’s bringing us out of a nasty cycle and it’s going to give us a boost so we can flourish in this community and set down permanent roots and feel much more secure as a family.”
The couple have a long history together: Will and Savannah met in a 10th-grade horticulture class. While the attraction was mutual, they were still young, so for a time they went their separate ways. Savannah went on to earn a degree in art education while Will became an expert mechanic. When their paths crossed again, they realized that they were much better together than apart. They married and moved to Mars Hill, a quaint college town of about 1,600 souls 20 miles north of Asheville.
On this day, the clarity of that decision was evident.“This takes so much stress away,” she continued, “so we can do good things for this community instead of just surviving. We’re excited to be here and so grateful we can raise our kids in this town. I was always drawn here as a child. I can’t believe it’s happening.”