“There are so many positive aspects this program offers my family. The affordability gives us comfort in knowing that we will be able to invest in our future.” ~ from Michael Martinez’s application letter~
As a Kansas City, Missouri native, Michael knew nothing of McDowell County, North Carolina or the city of Old Fort. But all that would change when he met and fell in love with Kelsey Parker. Although they enjoyed living in Missouri, when the pressures of being new parents mounted, Kelsey turned to her home town of Asheville, and family for help.
While the decision to move back was easy, finding an affordable rental was not. A lot had changed in the four years since Kelsey left. Because Asheville’s increased popularity was evident in the rising cost of rent, they decided to expand their search to neighboring communities, settling in Old Fort.
Michael quickly learned that job opportunities in Old Fort were scarce. After a series of low paying jobs, Kelsey’s mother told him about a job opening at her place of employment – Asheville Area Habitat’s ReStore. While employed at the ReStore, a Living Wage employer, he was still having a hard time finding an affordable place to live. He began opening his eyes to the possibility of home ownership through Habitat.
But there wasn’t a Habitat building program in Old Fort, and they had really come to love the serenity of Old Fort and enjoyed being close to family there. So, they accepted their lot as renters, and all was well until winter set in. With nothing but a wood furnace to heat the house, they soon learned why it costs so little to rent such a large house- it was impossible to heat. In an attempt to stay warm, they began closing off one room, and then another until they found their living quarters reduced to a single room in the house- the only room with heat.
It was then that they heard about the State Employees Credit Union (SECU) Challenge to build a Habitat house in every NC County. Michael was thrilled to learn about this serendipitous opportunity to become a Habitat homeowner while still being able to remain in McDowell County. Thanks to SECU and Asheville Area Habitat (who because there is not an active affiliate there, will be building the house in McDowell County), the family will soon be able to use every inch of their energy efficient, affordable home in the town they have come to call home.