Kareema Gillon listens to Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum speak during the dedication for her new Habitat for Humanity home in Starkville Tuesday. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
November 22, 2017 10:07:40 PM
For Kareema Gillon, there couldn't be a better time for the dedication of her Habitat for Humanity Maroon Edition home.
Gillon, 27, is moving into the home with her family, Korrine and Dorione, after dedicating on Tuesday -- two days before Thanksgiving.
She said the timing isn't lost on her.
"I was really loving the fact that was going to be done right before Thanksgiving," she said. "We actually broke ground on my grandfather's birthday (Aug. 11) so it's like everything that's going on with it is happening on great days."
For Gillon, the dedication of her new home on Owens Street is the end of months of work. She worked on the home herself, along with hundreds of volunteers, and said she'd at least try to stop by even on days when she couldn't work. She said the experience of working on the house was "beyond a blessing."
"The thing about it that I loved the most is even though I'm getting a home, I put my heart into it," she said. "I put my work into it. I came out here as much as I could and see the guys and what they were doing -- bringing them a couple of biscuits from here and there. The most I could do was try to be here."
Any potential Habitat home recipients have to go through an application process. Through that process, Habitat for Humanity checks to ensure applicants have the financial means to pay the home's mortgage. Those who get the home must put at least 300 hours of "sweat equity" work into the home, and take three self-improvement classes -- one of which must focus on financial literacy.
Joel Downey, executive director for the Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity, said Gillon's home is the ninth Maroon Edition home, which are built in annual collaborations with Mississippi State University. Three hundred-fifty student volunteers helped work on the home, which is 1,200 square feet with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Downey said he likes having students volunteer for the Maroon Edition homes because it offers a way for them to touch the community.
"Students have all this energy and these great hopes for the promise of tomorrow, but they really need to focus it," Downey said. "... It's incredibly important to do something for other people and they may have never met somebody like Kareema before."
Gillon's home also completes a set of Habitat homes of Owens Street, which is a short street and cul-de-sac that connects to Douglas L. Conner Drive.
"We're really pleased to have all the houses done," she said. "I think it makes it complete -- you don't have any vacant lots."
Mayor Lynn Spruill, speaking at Tuesday's dedication, said Habitat for Humanity is dear to her because her father was very active in it. She said the home is an important way to embrace fellow residents, and lauded the volunteers' work.
"It's just a wonderful program and I am so impressed by all of you who have been dedicated to getting this done -- all of the volunteer hours that go with it," she said. "It says so much about Starkville and Mississippi State and our work together to make this community the very best that we can be."
Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, citing scripture, said the home is a work of love from volunteers to Gillon.
"This home to me, I really believe, is a beacon -- a shining beacon of love for all to see in this community," he said. "It makes me so proud that Mississippi State University will forever be a part of this home and your wonderful family."
Downey, speaking to The Dispatch, thanked Gillon for her work on the home.
"Kareema has been a very, very good partner to work with," Downey said. "She's been out here -- like she said, even when she couldn't come out here and work on the house she would come by and say hello to the volunteers. That matters a lot, because the volunteers aren't just out here to build a house, but to build Kareema's house."
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