‘We got the house!’

Published 11:59 pm Monday, April 6, 2009

Ask Janie Lynn Hanlin about her new house, and her face becomes animated, her smile wide.

“We are so excited,” she said.

Mrs. Hanlin and her family – husband, Tony, and sons, D.J., 15, and Taylor, 8 – are Covington County’s first Habitat for Humanity family. The volunteer organization plans to build their home the weekend of April 24.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit charitable organization that constructs houses for needy “partner families.” The houses are built from volunteer labor and the families own the house and pay a small mortgage fee, as well as help out with construction.

While they wait, the Hanlins are busy earning 100 hours of “sweat equity,” a national Habitat requirement for families who are chosen for the program. They’re earning those hours going to class and by helping to clean the lots for future Habitat builds.

“We’ve been to class that teaches you how to cook on a budget, how to save electricity and how to budget your money,” Mrs. Hanlin said. “It’s really good.”

Denise Brooks is Habitat’s family support committee chairman. She’s working with the Hanlins and the next two families for whom the new Covington County Habitat for Humanity will build a house. She had the pleasure of calling Mrs. Hanlin when the family was chosen for the first build.

“I was laughing and crying and running through the house while I was on the phone with Mrs. Brooks,” Mrs. Hanlin recalled. When her startled sons looked at her with concern, she screamed, “We got the house.”

Brooks said it was one of the best moments of her life.

“It was topped only by calling her back to give her the build date,” Brooks said.

Helping the Hanlins, who were chosen in December, get their sweat equity hours in before the build date has been a challenge, Brooks said.

“We just didn’t have that much time,” she said. “That’s why we’re already working with the next two families. They’ll work on this build, and they’ll have their hours in with no problem.”

Mrs. Hanlin said when she filled out the application for her family, she only knew a little bit about the Habitat organization.

“I thought there was a chance we’d be chosen,” she said. “But I never thought we’d be first.”

The family lives in Opp, and their home will be built there, at the corner of West Park Street and Burdick Street. The family has seen the plans and knows the house will have three bedrooms and one bath,

“That’s about all we really know,” Mrs. Hanlin said.

But it is enough.

“This is a great group of people,” she said. “This is awesome.”

And as excited as her family is about their new house, there’s one other thing they’re looking forward to.

“They’re really looking forward to helping build the other houses,” she said.