To fully appreciate Habitat for Humanity/DeKalb’s latest project, it’s important, first, to take a step back in time.
The year was 2012. President Barack Obama was elected to his second term. Movie-goers caught their first glimpse of “The Avengers.” And during the Summer games in London, Americans won a staggering 48 gold medals.
Closer to home, Jazmin Owens was facing a tough decision.
Years earlier, when she was a student in college, Jazmin scrimped and saved, using money from an internship to buy a vacant piece of land on Leverett Drive in Stonecrest. Based on her financial situation, Jazmin had been working with Habitat for Humanity/DeKalb to build a home for her on the site.
When those plans didn’t work out, Jazmin had to decide what to do with the piece of property.
Ultimately, she donated the land to Habitat for Humanity/DeKalb.
“If it wasn’t my blessing,” she said, “maybe it could be someone else’s.”
For more than a decade, Jazmin occasionally checked Google Earth or drove by the site to see if any progress had been made.
“I wanted something good to come from it,” Jazmin said. “I was waiting and watching.”
At the time, she had no idea that her kind gesture would one day help another deserving DeKalb County resident, Tekisha Brown, who was also watching and waiting.
Tekisha lives in an apartment in Stone Mountain with her 9-year-old son, Kevin, and their three dogs, Felix, Benny and Oreo. And she has a deep appreciation for Habitat for Humanity’s work. Tekisha’s cousin lives in a Habitat for Humanity home, and she saw the positive impact that home ownership had on her cousin’s life.
So, in 2021, Tekisha applied for a home with Habitat for Humanity/DeKalb.
She was among 40 applicants, and just like any other homeowner, she had to meet certain criteria: In addition to demonstrating that she would be able to pay the mortgage, Tekisha, who works at Lifeline Animal Project, also had to meet Habitat for Humanity’s financial requirements. At the same time, she had to partner with the chapter, volunteering for a variety of projects.
And partner she did.
Over the last several months, for instance, Tekisha helped install windows. She painted exterior trim. And she helped repair a rotting deck.
Along the way, Tekisha was reminded of the power of giving back.
“It’s been such a great joy,” Tekisha said, “just getting to know different people and helping others in the community.”
All of which brings back to that piece of property on Leverett Drive – the one that Jazmin had donated so many years earlier.
On a frigid Saturday morning, volunteers, city officials, faith leaders and members of New Birth Baptist Church gathered for an official ceremony, as Habitat for Humanity/DeKalb broke ground on the site.
From the piles of dirt and tree stumps, a new, four-bedroom, two-bathroom home will slowly rise for Tekisha and her son.
“I’m just so thankful,” Tekisha said. “I’m so blessed. This is a dream come true.”
Tekisha’s home on Leverett Drive marks the 82nd that Habitat for Humanity/DeKalb has built or renovated for a deserving homeowner since the chapter was formed in 1988.
And now that she can focus her attention on helping build her own home – investing “sweat equity” – Tekisha has big plans.
She looks forward to having a dedicated laundry room. She wants to spend more time baking – and perfecting her recipe for her lemon/lime cake. Inspired by some of her favorite shows on HGTV, she can’t wait to decorate – and try her hand at gardening.
But most of all, she knows just how much her new home will mean to her son.
It will be a far cry from the aging apartment where they now live.
“I just want a safe haven for me and my son – a backyard for him to play with the dogs,” she said. “It will be a place to call our own.”
She recognizes that without the generosity of others, none of this would be possible.
In addition to countless volunteers, companies, such as Publix, Wells-Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Green Box Homes, as well New Birth Baptist Church, have all stepped forward to make Tekisha’s dream a reality. The City of Stonecrest is doing its part, too. It waived its fees for permits for the new home.
To all of those who will help along the way, Tekisha has a simple, yet heartfelt message:
“Thank you,” she said. “It’s a dream come true.”
When Jazmin Owens learned that Habitat for Humanity/DeKalb was preparing to build a home on the site, she was overjoyed that her generosity back in 2012 played an important role in making it all possible.
During the ground-breaking, she and Tekisha met for the first time.
As Jazmin surveyed the crowd and joined a group of dignitaries and volunteers behind shovels to overturn symbolic pieces of dirt, she couldn’t help but smile.
“This,” Jazmin said, “makes me so happy.”
Written by Mark A. Waligore