Welcome home, Winifred Sanders.
"Your house has to be built on a solid foundation," said Rick Roberts, director of finance for Habitat for Humanity. So, he said, does one's life.
On June 9, a small crowd gathered to dedicate Sanders' new home constructed by Habitat for Humanity. A retiree of Olan Mills, Sanders had set out on the pathway to homeownership twice before but always lost her nerve.
"I didn't know if I could take it on," she said.
Sanders learned from a friend that she could qualify to become a homeowner through Habitat.
In addition to meeting financial requirements, a partner family is required to fulfill 350 hours of "sweat equity," working to build both one's own home and others, said John Lamb, director of development for Habitat of Chattanooga. They also are required to take homeownership and maintenance classes in order to be prepared for the responsibilities of owning a home.
Sanders, the sole owner, put in all 350 hours herself, beginning early in 2011. She said she plans to continue as a Habitat volunteer.
"She has been one of the best partner families to work with," said Dawn Hjlelseth, director of volunteers, who described Sanders as "persistent and thankful."
The 1,050-square-foot house off Rossville Boulevard has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a small front yard.
As her home was dedicated, Sanders was surrounded by family and friends.
"I was there when her first child was born, and now I'm here when she gets her first home," said Neva Thurman, a friend of Sanders' since elementary school.
Before everyone entered Sanders' new home and celebrated with food and drink, and after she was presented with her key, the crowd gathered together, joining hands for a closing prayer.
"We ask that nothing but peace, joy and prosperity fall on her..." said Habitat executive director Donna Williams.
Sanders will not actually move into the house for a couple of weeks, but she knows how she plans to spend her first night in her new home.
"I'm going to get in here and praise the Lord, honey," she said.