Habitat breaks ground on Suffolk house

Published 10:09 pm Monday, November 4, 2019

It may be the 232nd home to be built by Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads in the last 31 years, but for Neil Jordan, it feels like the most important one.

During a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 29 for the 1,300-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home at 219 Pitchkettle Road, Jordan, 61, used the word “blessing” multiple times, to describe his feelings about the opportunity he and his sister will have to build, and then own, their own home.

“This is just an opportunity, a blessing really, because we’ve been working so hard at getting our own place,” Neil Jordan said. “And to have this come along, it took us a little while to get to this particular stage … It’s a blessing, man.”

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South Hampton Roads Habitat Executive Director Frank Hruska said this particular project started about four years ago.

Construction on the house is expected to begin this week, with the single-story, single-family house expected to be finished by April 2020.

“Now we’ve got the city behind us, we’ve got a sponsor, and now we can start building the house,” Hruska said.

He said the project could not have happened without support from the city and Birdsong Peanuts, which is sponsoring the building of Neil Jordan’s new home.

“The truth of the matter is, it isn’t that this couldn’t happen without the support of the city,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said. “It couldn’t happen without people like George Birdsong. It couldn’t happen without the volunteers. It couldn’t happen without people of huge hearts that give and give and give. And it couldn’t happen without the wonderful families that give their work, their effort, their sweat equity, their time, and really wanting it.”

Johnson said there was no way a city, or any one person, could do anything all on their own.

“Everybody needs an uplifting hand, and an uplifting heart,” Johnson said, “and I think that’s what we have here.”

Birdsong, chief executive officer of Birdsong Peanuts, said the company has always liked to help in its hometown and noted his and the company’s connection to Habitat, and its most famous volunteer, former President Jimmy Carter. Birdsong shared a story about interactions with Carter, who has been a Habitat volunteer with his wife, Rosalynn Carter, for more than 35 years.

He recalled that the former president had a small peanut sheller in his hometown of Plains, Ga., asking if Birdsong Peanuts would be interested in buying his shelling plant. Birdsong went down to Plains. He had to politely decline the offer, but the two stayed in touch after that, and Birdsong said he has always appreciated Carter’s work with Habitat.

“Particularly for Birdsong, the thing that I like so much about this is it is a project that our people can join in, and help out, and know that they’ve done some volunteer work, whether it’s painting or putting down grass seed or whatever it might be, cleaning up, whatever needs to be done,” Birdsong said. “And I think it gives us all pride to know that we’ve helped somebody.”

Eighty-five percent of the labor for the house will come from volunteers, Hruska said.

“This is an opportunity for people who had jobs, and are good people, (have) good credit scores, good members of the community, to have an opportunity for them to reach their dream of homeownership,” Hruska said.

Neil Jordan said he and Cherryl, 61, had been volunteering with Habitat for more than three years, having moved on and off the list several times for a new home before getting word about being able to own the home he will help build off of Pitchkettle Road.

“We were like, ‘I don’t think this is going to happen,’” Neil Jordan said, “and then out of the blue, it happened.”

The last few of the 200 volunteer hours with Habitat that he needs will be spent working on his own house, something he’s ready to do.
“What I really want to do is build,” Neil Jordan said. “I was just waiting on them. Now they tell me I’m going to be able to come out here and drill and hammer. Let’s go.”


Want to help?

Habitat for Humanity of South Hampton Roads is always looking for more qualified families for homes. Information about the qualification process can be found on its website, www.shrhabitat.org. The next application period opens in May 2020. Habitat is also looking for more volunteers. See its website for more information.