Habitat homeowner celebrates a year of firsts
For Habitat homeowner Shaun and his family, it has been a year of firsts.
There was the first day on the build site as the home began to take shape. There was the family’s first night in their new house, when everyone slept on the floor as Shaun looked around and thought, “This is ours.”
First nights turn into first holidays. “It was a beautiful experience to have Thanksgiving in our home,” Shaun says. “The first Christmas in the house was pretty awesome.” Looking back, the first year has been one of hard work and happy moments, of milestones and memories.
The hard work started well before moving day. “I worked on my own home from start to finish. Every room got painted before I moved in. I painted chalkboards in the kids’ rooms,” says Shaun.
Each of the children — Nyasia, Shaun Jr. and Tayshaun — has their own room. It’s a big change from where the family was living before, a poorly insulated rental where the kids shared a single room. “The house we were staying in, it was old,” Shaun says. “It got pretty hot during the summer and cold during the winter.”
The utility bills have decreased dramatically in the new house, Shaun says. Coupled with a mortgage payment that is lower than the rent bill was, the family is more financially stable and can put away more month to month.
Shaun and his wife, Yvette, have focused on adding personal touches, making the place their own. They started with the color, a nice brick red. The house is the first red one built by Habitat Kent County and the only red house on the street.
“It was just something different. We drove around, and it seemed like everybody was picking the same colors,” Shaun says. “We wanted to stand out a bit.”
Shaun also enjoys working in the yard. “I planted a lot of flowers, all different kinds of flowers,” he says. “We have a little vegetable garden in the back. We’ve done a lot around here since we moved in.”
And he’s not done. Shaun plans on adding a deck, a place to gather and make even more memories. He’ll build it with the help of friends and family, as well as with materials from the Habitat ReStore. “I’m really looking forward to that,” he says.
Although the family has completed the hundreds of hours of sweat equity required to become homeowners, Shaun continues to volunteer with Habitat Kent County, working alongside homeowners on the same path of stability and independence that he has traveled.
“Being part of that process is awesome,” he says. “That’s one of my favorite parts of the Habitat program, the building process and watching everything go up, seeing the families when they come in and visiting the homes.”
Shaun recently attended a dedication for a Habitat house he volunteered on and remembers the ceremony for his own home.
“I cried at mine. I couldn’t even talk, ” he says of the day when family and friends turned out to celebrate his accomplishment. It’s his favorite moment of the past year.
Shaun sees what the results of his work mean to his family. The children are just happier than they were in the old home, he says.
“Shaun Jr. seems more active and is getting out of the house more. He’s made a lot of new friends in the neighborhood. Tayshaun as well. He’s always out playing with a new friend,” he says. Daughter Nyasia has every visitor to the home sign the chalkboard in her room.
Most of all, the house means a secure place to raise a family for years to come, he says. “It’s a beautiful thing, homeownership.”
Shaun can look back at the first year and look forward to more firsts, seconds and countless other moments in the house, their first home.
It’s the red one.