Claiborne Habitat – ‘a hand up, not a hand out’

Published 11:43 am Saturday, June 19, 2021

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A house is more than just a home, especially when it’s earned by hundreds of hours of sweat equity alongside volunteers whose only mission that day, week or month is to insure a family gets a cozy roof over their heads.

Camaraderie mixed with labor equals a bright future for those in dire need of better habitation.

Claiborne County Habitat for Humanity is working to complete yet another quality home – this time, on Barger St. in Tazewell. It is indeed a community effort with people like local volunteers Diane Lester, Ginger Wolfenbarger, Courtney Partin, Patrician Heck and Terri Ann Heck pulling together in one mission. These volunteers donated time out of their busy schedules to labor alongside members of the Sterling Christian Church and the Liberty Church of Christ, who traveled from Indiana to help build the home.

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Local businesses like Pizza Inn, El Gallo, Heavy’s BBQ and Hardees have contributed a hefty sum to the cause as well.

Sherry Partin, who is with the Claiborne Habitat chapter, says she is so very thankful for all the hard work done by the volunteers and the willingness of the local eateries to contribute to the building of this home for a deserving family.

Since 1992, the county chapter has quietly gone about the business of creating residences from donated land, materials and funds. Through careful budgeting and planning, the organization is able to acquire property, build an up-to-code residence and insure appropriate infrastructure is in place.

The local nonprofit began under the leadership of the Rev. Richard Minton, Dot Lewis and Mary Graves. During those struggling early years, businesses, churches, banking institutions along with individuals came together to help.

Those who run the organization are quick to point out that these homes are “a hand up, not a handout.” Each family is very much invested in the process of buying their new home and carrying a mortgage just like anyone else. Each family must also contribute at least 500 hours of sweat equity as a down payment prior to moving in. Most of the hours are spent in classes, learning how to budget and how to become a responsible homeowner.

To qualify, there must first be a real need for decent and safe housing. The applicant must be a citizen or legal resident of the United States as well as a resident of Claiborne County for the last 12 months. The applicant must have acceptable credit and low current debts along with a steady regular work history or regular means of income like Social Security or SSI.

To qualify, the applicant must be willing to work the 500 sweat equity hours with help from friends and family and be able to save the money to cover the closing costs within the time it takes to build the home.

They must be able to pay the monthly mortgage on a 20 year interest free loan. The applicant must have not gone into bankruptcy or foreclosure on a home within the last two years.

You must also prove that you do not qualify for a home loan with a bank or mortgage company and that your income falls within HUD guidelines for your particular family unit.

Claiborne County Habitat for Humanity relies on financial and ‘in-kind’ support like new building materials, land or stock (traded funds). The nonprofit is always looking for sponsors.

You, your business, your civic or faith-based organization can support the nonprofit as well by organizing a fundraising event.

To donate or volunteer your services to the local chapter, log onto: or call 865-964-8322.