'Miracle' on Ashe Street

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Durham Herald Sun
By Lauren Horsch

They dubbed it the miracle on Ashe Street.

The dedication of the latest Habitat for Humanity home on Ashe Street brought out a crowd of people who helped refurbish the home and those who have supported Susan Mowery, the recipient of the house, throughout her journey.

Blake Strayhorn, executive director of Durham Habitat for Humanity, said the most recent house on Ashe Street is part of an 11-house effort in North-East central Durham in line with Mayor Bill Bell’s initiative to fight poverty.

“The impact is transformational for these families, and the neighborhood,” Strayhorn said.

Habitat for Humanity has been rehabilitating and building houses to help revitalize an area of Durham that has been in need for quite some time. Six months ago Strayhorn said Habitat didn’t have any houses in North-East Central Durham.

The Mowery house dedicated on Saturday was a “rehab” house, meaning Habitat for Humanity along with volunteers and the future homeowner went in and essentially rebuilt the house from the ground floor up.

“We ended up doing a really extensive rehab,” Strayhorn said. “There isn’t a single original stud or wall in this house.”

The Mowery House was a special project for Habitat for Humanity.

Joe and Carlisle Harvard came together with Habitat to sponsor the house as part of their 50 wedding anniversary.

It’s partnerships like the Harvards’ that help keep Habitat running, Strayhorn said.

Joe Bushfan, owner of Joe’s Diner, 2102 Angier Ave., has been a supporter and partner with Habitat as it improves the area of the Durham to which the diner is closest.

“It takes a team, you know, you have a lot of people up here … that really care about this area,” Bushfan said. “We’re going to take it from rats to rabbits.”

Rats to rabbits is a metaphor for Bushfan, meaning that once you get rid of the rats in an area, rabbits start to come around the front lawns, making it a more beautiful area.

“I love having you all up here, and we’re going to make a change,” Bushfan said. “I’ve been up here, and even if it kills me, I’m going to make a change.”

One of the many stories of the new home was how Mowery came about to find the distinctive color — Peacock Blue.

“I love it,” she said. After seeing the original color, she wanted something different, and had looked all over to find the perfect color before making her final decision.

“I’m nervous as can be,” Mowery said. “I’m just happy … I’m blessed every day.”

Mowery was approved for the house in February, and since then she’s been putting in her time work “sweat equity” to help pay for the house before she starts makiing her mortgage payments to Habitat.

For the Harvards, being able to sponsor Mowery’s house wasn’t just an opportunity to give back to the community but a way to build their family.

“I tell you, this is a remarkable young woman,” Carlisle Harvard said of Mowery. “She has taken the worst of possible histories and turned it into a loving, giving life.”

Joe Harvard said the home was for Mowery, but it’s also in honor of his wife.

“I feel like we’ve gained a new daughter,” he said. Their other daughter, Rebecca Leonard, is the community relations manager for Habitat.

“We could not have done with ... if Rebecca hadn’t been behind us,” Joe Harvard said.

Joe Harvard joked with the crowd about how much work would have to go into the house, and how people thought there was too much work to be put into the house.

“It really looked like a wreck,” he said. “But miracles do happen on Ashe Street.”

Habitat Success Stories

Worth helped found Durham Habitat as part of his Bible study group. He has volunteered to build hundreds of homes, but if you ask about his role with Habitat, he will take no special credit, saying, "Habitat just fits in with who I am."