DURHAM — Avanta Thorpe was all smiles Thursday, and she had every reason to be.
Thorpe was the center of attention at Lyon Park Community Center as Durham Habitat for Humanity dedicated the 300th house it’s built since the nonprofit was formed in the Bull City in 1985. Her new, three-bedroom house at 1514 Chapel Hill Road will be ready for occupancy early next year, but she and her 6-year-old son, Aviyon, were already dreaming about their new life. “I’m so excited,” Thorpe said. “It’s new and it’s mine. I can’t ask for more.”
Aviyon, who will have his own bedroom, said being able to jump on his bed excited him most. Thorpe will make $525 mortgage payments for 30 years before she owns the house outright, but because it’s a Habitat house, she’ll pay no interest.
That will instantly elevate her to a higher quality of life, compared to the one-room, roach-infected apartments she and her son had been living in. The 27-year-old single mother, who works fulltime at Panera Bread, said she appreciates how much Habitat has done for her. Habitat homeowners are required to put “sweat equity” into the house – pounding nails and the like. Thorpe said she loved every minute of it.
The guest of honor at Thursday’s dedication was Worth Lutz, who helped found the Durham organization in 1985 and has helped build almost all 300 houses in different parts of the city. “It’s a wonderful organization,” Lutz, 80, said. “The most gratifying thing has been seeing the homeowners move into their houses – it’s just unbelievable.”
Lutz still contributes to Habitat by building rocking chairs and donating sales to the Christian nonprofit. He also founded the Geezers, a group of volunteers that meets every Thursday to work on Habitat houses and share a meal. One Geezer, 78-year-old Delbert Tuell, has worked with Habitat in Durham for 20 years. The retired GTE employee said working with Lutz and Habitat “made my retirement.” Blake Strayhorn, executive director of Durham Habitat, said the organization helps people break out of the cycle of poverty.
“The key thing about Habitat is that it’s a hand-up, not a hand-out,” he said. “The homeowners work in partnership with us all the way. There’s a great sense of pride and dignity that comes from owning your home.” Since 1985, Habitat homeowners have paid more than $3 million in property taxes to Durham, he said. “When Habitat comes in, the whole neighborhood is transformed,” Stayhorn said. For Thorpe, a new door is about to open. “My son will get his own room, and I can decorate it and change anything if I need to,” Thorpe said with a sparkle in her eyes. “It’s something to call our own.”
Habitat for Humanity is an international, Christian nonprofit that builds affordable housing for those in need. For information about the Durham chapter, call 919-682-0516 or visit durhamhabitat.org