"My life changed for the better"

By Helen Prysock, Aiken County Habitat for Humanity homeowner

Tears of joy streamed down my face as I watched the paper go up in flames. Twenty years ago, I would have never dreamed of owning my own home. Last month, I paid my mortgage off early and celebrated by setting fire to my home mortgage note.

It was one of the happiest days of my life. Aiken County Habitat for Humanity threw me a party to celebrate the achievement, and my sisters took me out to dinner. The funny thing is I would have been just as happy celebrating at my home because I love it so much.

I first heard about Habitat in 1991 when I was living in Aiken, S.C., with my six children. At the time, we were moving around a lot because I kept having trouble finding a decent place for us to live. The houses that we ended up in always had something wrong with them — no heat, bad floors, sewer problems.

My sister Eartha told me about Habitat and suggested I apply for a home. I went to our local affiliate the very next day and filled out the paperwork.

I was cautiously optimistic since I had never owned anything in my entire life. Over the next two years, I attended Habitat meetings on homeownership, and I didn’t give up hope. To my surprise, one night the committee told me I was approved. I remember that evening like it was yesterday. I wanted a house for so long, and now I would be a homeowner.

I couldn’t wait to get into my new home. My move-in day was glorious. My family helped paint my house, and since I love flowers, we planted a lot of them in the front yard. I remember waking up the next morning and feeling so good knowing that I was in my house. That was 19 years ago, and I still love my Habitat house just the same.

My house did more than put a roof over my head. My life changed for the better after I moved in. I became a happier, healthier person.

I sometimes think about how my life would be if I weren’t a homeowner. My family used to sleep in two bedrooms, which was difficult because we were cramped. I would probably still be moving around a lot, continuing to deal with some of the same problems that I used to encounter. I’m so glad that I don’t have to go through that any more and that I’ve got a decent home if my kids want to come see me.

When I reflect on my experience with Habitat, I think about how grateful I am that God and Habitat blessed me with my house. I’m proud that I’ve been able to take care of it and pay for it all by myself. I will always cherish the blessing of homeownership. I will be in my Habitat home forever.