March 12, 2020
East Texas Baptist University students have joined up with a Marshall single mother and her sons to work side by side during their spring break this week in order to build the family a brand new home through Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity.
Marshall mom of five and Certified Nursing Assistant LaToya Brooks is nearing the completion of more than an 18 months long process this week, thanks to the help of more than 200 ETBU faculty and students who are volunteering their spring break to help build Brooks’ new three bedroom, two bathroom home on Franklin Street in Marshall.
Brooks first applied for the home through Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity in late 2018 and was notified she qualified for the at cost mortgage on the home in the summer of 2019.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said Wednesday. “I was so excited and humbled. This is truly a blessing. To be able to say ‘I’m a homeowner,‘ that’s just amazing.”
Brooks has been renting a home in Marshall for her and her three younger sons, while her oldest two children are off at college.
Rental costs, as well as living costs have made a significant strain on Brooks financially she said and the new home financed at cost of about $100,000 through Habitat will finally offer Brooks the financial relief she’s been needing.
Habitat, a 501©3 nonprofit, is able to help build and finance new homes at an affordable rate to qualifying families, due to the donations of local residents, businesses and organizations like ETBU, Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity CEO LaJuan Gordon said.
“This is a hand up, not a hand out,” Gordon said. “The homeowner will have put in a $1,000 down payment and more than 350 volunteer hours by the time their new home is built. They also attend financial classes to help them understand mortgages, property taxes, home insurance, so we can help them keep and maintain their home.”
ETBU owned and donated the parcel of land on which Brooks’ and a future Habitat home will be built, helping Habitat build the home at a reduced cost. Several business sponsors and individuals also donated materials and services to help the home build.
“ETBU has rehabbed about 15 homes in the community in the past four and a half years as part of our Neighborhood Renewal Initiative we started in 2016,” ETBU President Blair Blackburn said on Wednesday. “This is ETBU’s first ‘BLITZ’ home build in partnership with Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity. We have also purchased 16 vacant homes in deplorable conditions and removed them so future homes for Marshall families can be built.”
Blackburn said ETBU has seven more properties it plans to donate to Habitat to provide affordable homes for Marshall families.
“Millard Fuller started Habitat for Humanity in Georgia and I personally knew Millard, we were friends, and I had the opportunity to help build a number of houses with Millard, so to know ETBU is now carrying on his vision, is incredible. This is the first of many homes ETBU will build with Habitat in our community.”
Blackburn said everyday of the build has begun with prayer.
“When people have a safe home in a secure neighborhood, it changes the quality of their life,” he said. “As servant leaders, we are trying to set a model for other organizations and businesses to adopt this community renewal initiative to bring new homes to Marshall and transform our community.”
Gordon said while the exterior of the home is set to be completed this week, two more build days to finish the interior will be held at 8 a.m. on March 22 and 29. Those build days will be open to the public for volunteers.