Loudon County families given the keys to new Habitat homes

HAYLEY HARMON-6 News Anchor/Reporter

LOUDON (WATE) - For two Loudon County families, Christmas came a little early this year.

They were handed the keys to their brand new homes Sunday, built by Loudon County Habitat for Humanity. And thanks community donations, Habitat was able to build more homes for local families this year than ever.

It was an emotional day for the Willis and Garcia families, who for the very first time, now have homes to call their own.

Loudon County Habitat officially dedicated their homes today, and handed over the keys.

The houses are located along Hope Way in Loudon.

Habitat partners with local families in need to help provide them with decent, affordable housing. Volunteers and the families themselves built these homes over the last four months.

"It's incredible when I step back and look at it. I can't believe this community has been able to do that," said Shauna Oden, executive director of Loudon County Habitat for Humanity.

It's the first home either one of the families have ever owned.

"This is amazing. To start a whole new life," said Carolyn Willis.

For Willis and her family, which includes three young children, the new home means safety and stability.

The reality that it really is their home is almost too much to take it.

"It's hard to believe that its ours. It's awesome. It's gorgeous," said Willis.

It's a big day for Loudon County Habitat too, now celebrating its 20th year. These homes are the 10th and 11th houses they've built this year.

In years past, they normally only built about seven, but a major increase in community donations over the last 12 months allowed them to build the additional homes.

"We're very excited about the fact that we can serve more people in our community," said Oden.

They've also gotten a lot more funding by way of sponsorships.

St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church sponsored the build of the Garcia's home. They donated not only man hours by 150 volunteers from the church during construction, but also gave more than $30,000.

"You could see from today's dedication the reality in their eyes that 'wow, this is a new life for us,'" said Rick Mannarino of St. Thomas the Apostle.

All that work though has now made a house a home for two Loudon County families.

"It's just something I never thought I could ever do," said Willis.

The families helped build the homes and also had to undergo a series of homeownership classes. In the last 20 years, Loudon County Habitat for Humanity has built 98 homes for local families.

For more information on how to become a partner family, visit their website.