One of the first things you notice about Anne Hunter is the warmth of her voice, as if it were burnished with honey. It has a lovely lilt that envelopes you and raises your spirits, simply with its sound. When the conversation topic is dear to her heart, you cannot help but be swept into her enthusiasm.
One of those happy topics is her home in Chapel Hill, which she built in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County and an ensemble of churches in 1997. Back then, Anne and her
four-year-old son, Brandon, were living in a rented mobile home in Chapel Hill.
“It was bad; it wasn’t healthy and there were rats!” she says. She wanted to find a better home for herself and her little boy, and she wanted to remain in Chapel Hill. But she faced a problem that was, and still is, all too common: even a modest home in Chapel Hill was unaffordable on her salary.
Anne recalls, “I had seen so many people, like firefighters and police officers, who worked for Chapel Hill, who loved Chapel Hill, but just couldn’t afford to live here. They were driven out of town by the high cost of housing.” Anne and Brandon may have been driven out too, were it not for Anne’s co-worker at UNC who told her about his volunteer work with Habitat.
“It was so interesting to me,” says Anne. After applying to build and purchase a home with Habitat and being accepted, she embraced the sweat equity aspect of the program, dedicating every Saturday for over four months to working on her home and the homes of her future neighbors. She learned so much about the building process that she felt empowered to tackle many home improvement projects herself over the years.
But the best aspect of her Habitat experience? Her partnership. When asked to describe the volunteers who sponsored and helped build her home, she replies, “Do you know the word awesome?!” Volunteers from Amity United Methodist Church, Carrboro United
Methodist Church, Holy Family Episcopal Church, and United Church of Chapel Hill created the first Shalom Partnership in Habitat history to build her home in Culbreth Park. “They were just wonderful; so caring, so interested in getting everything right. We all had happy tears at the dedication.”
Since closing on her home 16 years ago, Anne has remained active with Habitat, donating her money and volunteering her time, including serving on Habitat’s Board of Directors for four years. She enjoyed meeting people who dedicated themselves to making their community a better place for all, regardless of income. “There was so much good work going on, and you’d never hear about it in the papers. I learned so much serving on the Board.”
As Anne reflects on the impact of owning her own home, she talks about a sense of well-being and self esteem, both for herself and for her son Brandon, who is now a junior at Appalachian State University studying criminal justice. But she also looks beyond her own family to the broader community, where others still struggle to afford the cost of renting in the area, and where purchasing a home with a median price of over $371,000 remains a dream for many.
“God’s truth. Habitat has made a world of difference in our community. There is no doubt in my mind that without it, a lot of more people who work here could not afford to live here. That’s why I want people to join me in supporting Habitat for Humanity and continue to give as generously as they can every year.”