Updated: Nov 25, 2020
POWHATAN – Jenny Hammond put in hundreds of hours of sweat equity over countless nights and weekends on the house, but it wasn’t until someone handed her the key to the front door that it really sunk in – she was about to be a homeowner.
“When they give you keys to something, you are like wow, I actually get to move in here,” she said with a laugh.
That moment came on March 27 for Hammond, and a little over a week later she and her two teenagers were moving into their new home.
Usually there would have been a little more fanfare since the Hammonds are the owners of the 14th home built by Habitat for Humanity – Powhatan. There would have been a dedication ceremony attended by the Hammonds, their family and friends, and volunteers who helped make this dream a reality.
But even without the special ceremony, Hammond and her 16-year-old twins Zack and Gabby are settling in and loving the new space they get to call their own. Hammond also has a grown daughter, Moriah, 22, who doesn’t live with them.
“As far as the first night we spent there, I think we really just felt like this had been our home forever. We had been there so much it felt comfortable to us. It wasn’t odd feeling to be there. It felt more like this is how I have always dreamed it to be. This is how I have always imagined it would be in the end,” Hammond said. Moving into their new home marks a huge turning point for the trio, who had been living in a rented home for three and a half years that had many of the issues common with older homes and wasn’t the best situation for them.
Even in that situation, Hammond, who works as a permit technician in the Powhatan County Building Department, said she thought long and hard before applying to Habitat for Humanity about two and a half years ago. Several people had encouraged her to do so, but part of her thought there were people more deserving or in a worse situation than her.
What eventually helped her decision was her increased understanding of what Habitat for Humanity is – a hand up, not a hand out.
“A lot of people don’t understand that I am not being handed this home. This is not a gift. I have to pay for it. It doesn’t cost as much as a house if I bought it through a real estate agent,” Hammond said. “In order to do that, you have to have a certain credit capacity and have some sort of income. They have guidelines for that. They have certain things you have to really have in order to be a candidate. I am surprised how many people don’t realize the house is not a gift. I would say about 75 percent of the people that I interacted without throughout the job thought I actually wouldn’t be paying the mortgage on it.”
When she applied and was accepted, Hammond said she was grateful to be selected and was determined to be a huge part of the process.
Roseleen “Spud” Rick, executive director of Habitat for Humanity-Powhatan, said Hammond’s rental situation, being a single parent, and having a steady job were all factors in choosing the family. She also has a family member with a medical disorder that may lead to living permanently with Hammond, which was also a consideration when deciding on the layout of the three-bedroom home.
Once the family was chosen and the work on the house began, Rick said she has never seen anyone put in so much time on their Habitat house. A homeowner is required to put in 200 hours of sweat equity into the house; Hammond worked more than 600 hours.
“She was there on every single work day and she was frequently there during the week doing odd jobs. She was terrific,” Rick said. “I would describe her as extremely committed to being a homeowner, very hardworking, and committed.”
Habitat broke ground on the house in August 2019 and worked on it over the winter, which was mild enough to still see progress moving forward. Rick praised Bobby Shortridge Jr., who was the construction supervisor on the project, for the terrific job he did.
Hammond had volunteered with Habitat several times throughout her life and has a background in the building industry. She was at the house on a nightly basis doing whatever she could to help move the project along and prepare for the weekends when there were larger volunteer groups.
“That is just my nature. I have a very strong work ethic. I knew they needed that kind of help and I was happy to do it, and I understood enough that I was able to,” she said.
After the twins turned 16, they would help on Sundays and always worked hard, their mom said.
As the project was nearing completion, the nation was becoming increasingly aware of and alarmed by the spread of COVID-19. Hammond said she was concerned things would start to be shut down before her house received its certificate of occupancy. She did what she could to help keep the process moving along so it could be completed as soon as possible, and on March 27, the certificate of occupancy was granted.
Now safely ensconced in her new home and looking back at the process, Hammond said she is incredibly grateful to Habitat and everyone who helped make her dream of becoming a homeowner a reality. In addition to Shortridge, she praised all of the volunteers who helped on the project.
She also pointed out that several businesses were a huge help. The project received a $15,000 grant from Wells Fargo Build and donations from numerous companies, including Pella Windows of Richmond, Ferguson Enterprises, Delta Faucet Company, RC Goodwyn & Sons, Beers and White Inc., Ricks Grading & Excavating Inc., Village Building Company, Bon Air Exterior’s Inc, ABC Supply Co. Inc., Venetian Marble Inc., Universal Heating & Air, Jimmy’s Carpet, VAMAC, Sherwin Williams, Layman Brothers Insulation, Eternal Stoneworks, and Patriot Electric.