As Ayanah Gaines, a 17-year veteran now serving in the U.S. Army Reserves, looked out at the construction of what will be her new home, she reflected on what has been a spiritual experience for her.
“This has been my year of faith and expectancy, and that has been the focal point of my year, and things have just been aligning under that forefront,” Gaines, a single mother of three, said.
Gaines watched with her children, Antoine, 16, Ayanah, 15, and Peyden, 8, as they got a first look at their new home Saturday morning during her wall-raising celebration on Old Mission Way in Warner Robins. She’s a new homeowner thanks to Houston County Habitat for Humanity’s Veterans Build program, an organization that works to promote community and service to veterans nationwide.
Gaines said she needed assistance in purchasing a home so she applied for the Veterans Build program. She was selected by a Houston County Habitat for Humanity committee and then approved by the local board of directors.
“It can be kind of rough from credit to income and everything else, so it is a good program to help you get all of that, consolidate all of that, and get it going,” Gaines said.
The program has three areas of focus, according to information provided by Veterans Build Coordinator Diane Stephens:
▪ Build: The program works to create and maintain safe, decent and affordable housing for veterans through ownership and repairs.
▪ Engage: Invites the community to work with veterans and their families.
▪ Honor: Hosts special events throughout the year to honor veterans.
“(Veterans Build) builds community, and it builds service within the entire community and Houston County,” Stephens said.
Saturday’s wall-raising was a special day for volunteers as it allowed the Gaines family to start visualizing their new home.
“When we pour the foundation, the family cannot see exactly what the house in gonna look like. Now, we raise the first walls and that’s progress on building their home,” Stephens said.
Some of the biggest issues veterans face today when returning to society are expensive home prices and securing high-paying jobs, said Houston County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Bill Goggin.
With brand-new homes through the program costing between $320-$500 per month and a zero-interest mortgage, Goggin hopes that Veterans Build will make housing affordable for veterans.
“We fill the gap between the cost of housing and providing affordable housing,” Goggin said.
Goggin said the program also gives volunteers an outlet to work with veterans.
“It’s something that people have the desire to do, to help out with veterans transitioning back into society,” Goggin said.
One of those volunteers is Paul Casilli, a veteran who was working on the Gaines home Saturday morning. He has been a Habitat for Humanity worker since 1995 and serves as construction lead, the person who helps guide builders with instructions for safe construction.
“Being a construction lead on a Veterans Build is just natural for me,” Casilli said.
One of the program’s biggest events is the annual Veterans Gala, a fundraising event that honors veterans. This year’s gala is scheduled for Nov. 2 at the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base..
To find out more information about the event, visit the organization's website.