We are proud that many of the current homeowners, as well as those now coming through the homeownership program, are among the people we call “essential workers.” They are first responders, front-line caregivers, support staff in health care facilities, and employees of essential businesses such as grocery stores and gas stations. In fact, the two homes dedicated since the shutdown began were purchased by Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) who work in senior living communities, protecting those most vulnerable to the virus. To these homeowner heroes and to everyone working through this difficult time, we say THANK YOU!
As she goes about her days both at work and at home, the COVID crisis and its effects are never far from Khalilah’s mind.
As a CNA in the labor and delivery unit at Forsyth Medical Center, she must be very conscious of wearing a mask at all times and changing out all of her protective clothing if she comes in contact with any patient showing symptoms of being sick. She has to fill out a survey at work every day about her own health and have her temperature taken. At home, her mother and brother are pitching in to watch her 2 ½-year-old daughter, who doesn’t really understand why she isn’t seeing her day care teachers and friends.
In addition, Khalilah and her mother are primary caretakers for her grandparents, doing grocery shopping and cooking and making sure to be on any phone calls with their doctors.
Through it all, Khalilah maintains her positive spirit. “I’m not anxious or fearful,” she said. “I’ve continued my normal regimen of building my immune system…but I am ready for it to be all over and to be able to enjoy normal activities and trips.”
As a pharmacy tech at a local CVS, Michelin is on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. During her shifts, which can be 11 hours, she often works the drive through. She wipes down her work area between every customer, washes her hands frequently and takes a daily dose of Vitamin C.
At the end of her long days, Michelin looks forward to returning to the home that she purchased earlier this year. “I am LOVING my house! It is wonderful. I am learning to mow grass, and I’ve found some chairs that are just the right size for my porch.”
Michelin frequently babysits her sister’s twin toddlers, a boy and girl. Thanks to the virus, the birthday party they had planned before was scaled down to just close family. She is keeping the twins in mind as she furnishes her house. “They just turned 2, and they are into everything.”
As a CNA at a local assisted living community, Paris is on the front lines of health care during the COVID-19 crisis. Like many other parents, she also helped her sons adjust to distance learning. She has said good-bye to crowded apartment life and now enjoys a home where everyone has their own room.
“Since the Habitat program is based on income, I am able to buy a home that would otherwise cost more than I could afford. I realized I was paying more than 30 percent of my income in rent, for something I would never own, no matter how many years I paid. After 30 years of payments, this home will be mine. If anything ever happens to me, it will be here for my kids.”
The homeownership program has provided a good experience for the entire family, Giles said. She has learned a lot in the hands-on home maintenance workshops as well as classes on money management and budgeting. Her sons have enjoyed Habitat’s summer financial literacy camp and the Youth Empowerment Program. “I talk to people about Habitat all the time. I tell them if you are ready to have a house of your own, you should definitely apply.”
Tawanda was only 15 when she discovered her passion for working with seniors. While visiting an aunt who worked at a senior living facility, she took a tour and encountered dementia patients who were clearly confused. “I just started talking with them,” she said. “My aunt said, ‘You handled that real well.’ ”
She started volunteering, then working, with seniors right after that. After graduating from Parkland High School, she worked in food service for a while but soon realized her heart was with senior care. She is now a CNA at an assisted living/memory care facility. “I work with all the patients, but I like working with the Alzheimer’s patients the most, because they need the most help. Some of them can’t hear, or see, or feed themselves. Some people ask how I can like it so much, and I tell them, ‘You just have to have patience, just like you have with your kids.’ ”
Tawanda and her son recently moved into their home in Glenn Oaks. “I am excited that I will have something to call my own. I’m learning a lot in the classes, too, and I am very thankful for that.”
Between her full-time job and earning her Habitat education and engagement hours, Tawanda hasn’t had much time for hobbies, but she enjoys cooking and says she might consider a culinary career at some point.
While much attention has been focused on physicians and nurses during the COViD crisis, many other essential employees have worked diligently behind the scenes to keep our local hospitals running.
As a member of N.C. Baptist Hospital’s document imaging department, Valerie washes her hands frequently while at work, particularly when she has to handle documents that have come from a COVID patient’s room. Although medical records are now mostly online, there are still many paper forms that must be brought to the department from all over the hospital, scanned and added to patients’ records.
Like many other local health care employees, Valerie is among those who have had to accept a temporary reduction in hours. “It’s been a strange and scary time. COVID has been hard on all employees,” she said.
At the end of the day, Valerie enjoys the refuge of her Habitat home, which she purchased in 2014. The house had been in foreclosure and was in need of major repairs. “The first time I saw it, it was in really bad shape. But Habitat assured me that it could be remodeled into a great house, and they did it! I LOVE my house, and I thank God every day for it.”