Fire victims get new home through Habitat for Humanity
Ebony Hawkins-Pearson never dreamed that less than a year after a fire destroyed her Duquesne home, she once again would have a place of her own for herself and her two daughters.
On Saturday, in a brief ceremony filled with tears of joy and prayer, Hawkins-Pearson clutched the keys to her new house, provided by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh.
“I feel like the heavens have opened up for me,” Hawkins-Pearson said as family and friends toured her new Corey Avenue, Braddock, home. “This is the best Mother's Day present from God.”
Hawkins-Pearson and her two daughters, Destiny, 17, and Trinity, 10, were left homeless on May 25, 2012, when fire leveled their uninsured home and destroyed their belongings.
Hawkins-Pearson, 40, thanked her family for housing and supporting her and her children, encouraging her to stay strong while the family rebuilt their lives. As part of eligibility for the house, Hawkins-Pearson had to put in 350 hours of “sweat equity,” working on other Habitat homes. She now has a 30-year, interest-free mortgage that will cost less than $500 a month. Habitat uses mortgage payments from other Habitat families to help fund home projects.
“Habitat for Humanity taught me how to be patient,” Hawkins-Pearson said, adding that she juggled work and her volunteer efforts to fulfill eligibility requirements.
Her father, Brent Robertson, a deacon at Bethlehem Baptist Church in McKeesport, said he went to Haiti in March to help build homes there.
“I had no idea that six weeks later, I would be here with my daughter” as she celebrated the first day in her new home, Robertson said.
A brief ribbon-cutting ceremony included students from Ellis School, an all-girls day school in Shadyside, offering Hawkins-Pearson flowers in brightly painted pots with messages, including “Welcome home.”
“There are no volunteers, they've all gone home,” said Daniel Webb, family services coordinator for Habitat. “The hammers have been hung up. It's now up to you to make this house a home.”
Since 1986, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh has built or renovated more than 80 homes, according to executive director Maggie I. Withrow.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.