[ skip to content ]


Life is all about new experiences these days for Bobby and Sheila Williams of Norfolk.

The couple is about to become first-time homeowners thanks to a Habitat for Humanity project run through Old Dominion University and funded by Wachovia Bank.

With it has come the trips to the hardware and home improvement stores that homeowners take for granted or dread altogether. There is no such jaded reaction from the Williamses.

"We're just so thrilled and thankful," Bobby Williams said while standing on the sidewalk near the empty lot where his home will stand. "We always wanted a house. It seems like a miracle that we have one."

When ground was broken at the site Sept. 14, trenches for the house's foundation had already been dug and plans were in place to pour concrete footers to support the two-story structure.

When complete, the house will feature four bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Officials hope that the Williamses and their three children will be in their new house at 509 W. 29th St. by Christmastime.

Old Dominion students, faculty and staff also will be participating in the construction. The university's Alpha Phi Omega fraternity chapter is coordinating student efforts. Wachovia Bank, involved with other local Habitat projects, will donate $50,000 to Old Dominion to build the house, as well as provide construction crews.

Students from Norfolk State University also were at the site, busily digging bricks from the ground while officials and the Williamses thrust shovels into the ground to mark the beginning of construction.

"Nobody wins until we all win," said Dana Burnett, vice president of student services. "I think we're going to find a lot of students, faculty and staff who are willing to invest their time in this project."

The Williams family - Bobby, Sheila and their children, Shelena, 15, Barry, 12, and Kimberly, 8 -- have lived in their current apartment on Corprew Avenue in Norfolk for seven years. The family has never had a place to call its own.

They look forward to the possibilities that home ownership will bring. The two youngest children like the fact that the Monroe Elementary is across the street from their new house, their parents said.

Nearly two years have passed since the Williamses first filed paperwork applying for the house. The news that their request for a Habitat home was approved was met with an understandably emphatic response.

"It overwhelmed us," Sheila Williams said. "It was like, 'Oh Lord, thank you. Hallelujah'."

Through volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of money and materials, Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses with the help of the homeowners. The houses are then sold to the families at no profit, financed with
affordable, no-interest loans. The average Habitat home costs $42,500.

Homeowners' monthly mortgage payments enter a revolving Fund for Humanity to build more houses.
In addition to a down payment and the monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor, so-called "sweat equity," into building their Habitat house and the houses of others.

The Williamses, their family and friends are responsible for putting in some 400 hours of service.

The project makes the Williamses' dream of owning a home possible. Sheila is a telephone counselor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. Bobby is a guitarist and singer who once played frat parties at Old Dominion.

"We always wanted a home," Bobby said. "Habitat gives us that ability."

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry which seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world and make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.

Habitat has built almost 80,000 houses around the world, providing some 400,000 people in more than 2,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter.

Some 1,800 active affiliates are located in the 50 United States and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico and in 63 other countries around the world.

Former President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn have long supported the cause of the Americus, Ga.-based organization.

This article was posted on: September 15, 1999

Old Dominion University
Office of University Relations

Room 100 Koch Hall Norfolk, Virginia 23529-0018
Telephone: 757-683-3114

Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.