Volunteers Bryan Oditt and LaRoy Reynolds, an NFL linebacker from Norfolk, were hard at work rehabbing a downtown Suffolk home Saturday for Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads. “We’re down in the trenches,” Reynolds said. (Matthew A. Ward/Suffolk News-Herald)
Volunteer LaRoy Reynolds, an NFL linebacker from Norfolk, was hard at work rehabbing a downtown Suffolk home Saturday for Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads. “We’re down in the trenches,” Reynolds said. (Matthew A. Ward/Suffolk News-Herald)

Archived Story

‘A place to call home’

Published 12:47am Sunday, February 2, 2014

Habitat gets help from area NFL star

A Suffolk single mother of four will experience homeownership for the first time, thanks to Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads, Bank of America and volunteers including NFL linebacker LaRoy Reynolds.

Reynolds, a Norfolk native playing football for the Jacksonville Jaguars, said helping to rehabilitate the three-bedroom ranch home on Locust Street was “a great opportunity to serve the community and be a part of something.”

On Saturday, Reynolds and several other volunteers were tearing up the old floor and putting down a new one. The NFL player said the volunteer opportunity was suggested to him by Habitat for Humanity board member Mark Johnson, who attends his church.

Reynolds said he got in touch with the organization’s staff, “and they did a great job in setting everything up.”

Reynolds said his handyman skills — developed working on projects with his dad — were limited to “painting and picking up stuff.”

“I brought my dad with me,” he said. “He’s been helping me, taking me through it. We’re down in the trenches now, picking floor up and putting new floor down. We just did the living room, (and) now we’re doing the hallway.

Wayne Lavender, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads said the organization plans to build 26 homes this year, including eight new ones and 18 rehab projects like the one in Suffolk.

The dramatic increase in foreclosed homes brought on by the Great Recession meant that the nonprofit has been focusing more on rehabs, he said, which run about a third of the cost of new construction.

“This is a foreclosed house we got from Bank of America for $3,000, and we are going to put about $40,000 into it of materials and labor,” he said. “Three-quarters of the labor are volunteers, and we have some construction staff supervising.”

As well as giving families the dignity of homeownership, the group’s activities lift property values in neighborhoods and bring real estate “back on the tax rolls,” Lavender said.

Malika Traynham, recipient of the home, said she is looking forward to no longer having to rent.

“I’m paying a lot of money for rent,” she said. “This will definitely help in terms of being able to pay for my children’s education and be more progressive in being able to save for my retirement. It’s a place to call home.”

Maureen Grumbly, construction assistant for the area Habitat chapter, said it was the third Saturday working on the house.

They try to keep the number of volunteers on any given day at around 10, she said, adding, “Today there’s 15.”

She said rehabs allow them to get homeowners into their homes a lot faster than new construction.

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