The king of Worth Street

Posted |

The Herald-Sun
By: Blake Strayhorn, Durham Habitat for Humanity

One Habitat friend of mine, AJ, is now 17.  AJ told me recently about Apartment 17-D, where he and his family stayed until AJ’s mom bought their Habitat home near Golden Belt.  17-D had concrete floors and block walls; AJ remembers it as always cold.  In 17-D, AJ learned to tell gunshots from fireworks.  Before he was 10, AJ saw a man shot as he took out the trash. 

AJ thought 17-D was normal because he’d never known different.   But his mom wanted more.

In 2006, AJ, 10, and his friend Kaitlin, 8, led Durham Habitat Youth in raising the $50,000 sponsorship to build his family’s home.  The pair hosted Habitat’s fundraising breakfast that year encouraging adults to “think big,” saying, “If we can do it, you can do it.” 

That breakfast was a big success, and AJ wrote this essay soon after moving into his Habitat home.

“What my Habitat home means to me

“By Adriel Holland, age 11

“If I had all the fame and fortune in the world I would help every family that’s in need to get a home. I think everyone should experience this nice warm pleasant feeling that I still have this very moment. To me my Habitat home is more than a place where I live. It’s my every thing.

“Ever since I was little I wanted a house that I could call my own, a yard that I can run around and do flips and just be in my own world. Now that my dream has come true I no longer have a missing spot in my heart. Ever since I moved into my new house I feel like I am the king of Worth Street. If only Mr. Worth Lutz, one of the founders of Habitat for Humanity of Durham, knew how many smiles he placed on new homeowners’ faces he would smile like he was the king of the world.

“Even though I left behind some special memories in my old neighborhood, I feel like I am walking through a gate so nice it does not have a name for it.”

AJ, now a senior in high school, will be “walking through a new gate” as he attends N.C. A&T University this fall.  AJ says his possibilities are endless and he credits his mom, Cynthia, who he calls a soldier.  

Not only has Cynthia built a stronger future for AJ, but her mortgage payments help build more Habitat homes in Durham.  

More than 750 kids have grown up in Durham Habitat homes.  Unfortunately, there are still way too many children in Durham who know the difference between gunshots and fireworks. 

AJ and Kaitlin are again hosting Habitat’s annual breakfast this Tuesday.  If you’d like to attend, please email Roxanne Hall Little at  If you’d like to support the next generation of AJ’s, please visit 

Blake Strayhorn is executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Durham Inc.

Habitat Success Stories

Lal is a Burmese refugee who came to Durham after stops in India and Thailand. Lal partnered with Habitat and the Durham Literacy Center to renovate a historic home in East Durham. "There is no more fear," Lal said. "We won't have to move again because the home belongs to us."