NETTLETON • The Nettleton community is welcoming new residents as Northeast Mississippi Habitat for Humanity hosted its second virtual home dedication since COVID-19 began.

Annette Thompson finally saw the completion of a homeowner journey that began back in 2017, when she was first accepted in the Habitat for Humanity program. Tuesday at noon, she finally got to step foot in her home as Northeast Mississippi Habitat for Humanity executive director Michelle Shepherd and construction manager Chris Partin hosted a virtual dedication with some of the organizations who helped sponsor the home. Thompson most looks forward to moving in and enjoying this home with her girls.

“It’s our first home, first ever home. We have never, ever had a home to ourselves, and to me it’s a blessing to do this and be able to share with them, especially while they are still young,” Thompson said. “It’s an amazing feeling, but I really, really, really appreciate Michelle for even giving me the opportunity.”

Habitat for Humanity works to provide affordable housing to low income applicants. Potential homeowners must perform volunteer work helping build other homes and take financial education and home maintenance classes, where they are then put on a waitlist.

“Miss Annette has worked so hard to earn this house. She has put in the hours on other people’s homes, she’s put in the hours on her home, and she’s been an awesome homeowner because she always has a smile on her face,” Partin said. “She’s so willing to do anything we ask her to do, whether that’s getting up on a ladder or getting on hands and knees and laying flooring.”

HomeStretch Furniture of Nettleton helped fund the home. Vice President Gentry Long said the company was proud to be a part of Habitat for Humanity and be able to provide their homeowners opportunities to be successful in the future and have a beautiful place to live.

“2020 has been a heck of a year, but I also agree it is a blessing to be able to do this under the circumstances. If we can do things like this under these circumstances, when things finally mellow out a little bit, 2021 should be an amazing year,” Long said.

The process of a homeowner going from waitlist to getting in their home can take 18 months to two years, but Shepherd said the pandemic has slowed that process. Their first home dedication this year was planned for the middle of March, but was delayed and then moved to virtual once the pandemic began. The organization had to close volunteers completely until June, when the national organization said organizations could only have up to 10 regular volunteers. Since the Northeast Mississippi affiliate typically has 15 to 20 volunteers at a site, many of them new, this meant it took longer to finish the home. The organization also has to deal with lessening availability and rising costs of building supplies.

“We’re so glad to be able to wrap this house up before the end of 2020 and to be able to celebrate today with Miss Annette, who has been faithfully coming out and volunteering on her own home in the time that she’s able to,” Shepherd said.

Since dedicating two homes this year, Shepherd said they are now in the planning stage for their next project. Lots have already been selected, but the pandemic is causing building costs to rise, which hinders Habitat for Humanity’s goal of providing low cost housing for their clients. Their most critical need right now is donations.

“Affordable housing is still such a matter of importance, especially now in the pandemic. I think the pandemic has highlighted that there’s a shortage of affordable housing in our country but also in our specific area, and that affordable housing is needed now more than ever,” Shepherd said.

She also encourages people to keep Habitat for Humanity in mind when reopening occurs after the pandemic, as they will need volunteers in full force again.

Originally from Shannon, Thompson has resided in Tupelo with her sister for several years with her 10 and 11-year-old daughters. She enjoyed her experience helping build other homes, meeting new people and seeing volunteer groups, such as Lowe’s or a volunteer student group with the University of Michigan, helping others. She looks forward to meeting the people within her new community, and her children being able to meet other children when COVID-19 ends.

“I hope my girls take my experience and understand what hard work is really about and all the sacrifices that you have to make in order to make things happen in life,” Thompson said. “...As far as the community goes, they’re getting a great family here. We’re awesome.”

danny.mcarthur@journalinc.com

Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_

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