Renita's House: A Very Very Very Fine House

Renita emanates joy, with a huge smile and gracious attitude. She is a true Lynchburg native, born and raised in the Hill City. She has one grown daughter and two grandchildren and has worked full-time at Westminster Canterbury for twenty years.

Renita knows how unstable affordable housing in Lynchburg is. Twice in recent years, the houses which she was renting were sold, and she was forced to relocate. After the last time this happened, she says she began to lose hope and get discouraged. “It was just like a breaking point. I mean are you kidding me? You never know when landlords might just put their house up for sale.”

She now lives in a one-bedroom, basement apartment but says, “The cost of renting here in Lynchburg is outrageous. I had to get a part-time job in addition to my full-time job, just to make ends meet… just to survive.” Renita is not alone in this. Thousands of families in Lynchburg experience the stress, depression, and hopelessness created by housing instability caused by increasing housing costs, frequent moves, and the threat of eviction or foreclosure. But through the help and support of friends like you, Greater Lynchburg Habitat for Humanity is working to end this problem and give peace and security to these local families.

Desperate for change, Renita applied to become a Habitat homeowner. When she stopped by the office to give Greg, the Director of Family Services, an additional piece of paperwork, he told her she had been approved. She was ecstatic! She recalls, “I was jumping up and down there in the office as soon as he told me the good news. Then, I ran to my sister’s job, told her the good news, and we began jumping up and down there. She was so happy for me. That day was a blessing!”

The construction on Renita’s home will begin in July, but she has already put in over 150 hours of sweat equity on other Habitat homes and in the ReStore. She is looking forward to building her home, a place where her grandchildren can play safely, where she can host family get-togethers, and where she can have peace in knowing she has housing security.  

In Memory of Our Fathers

A word from the Home Sponsors: Jan and Zeb Gray

We are so pleased to help provide resources to build a house in memory of our fathers. Our dads were both craftsmen and civic-minded men. It would delight them to know their example serves as the inspiration for our support. Jan’s father was Carmelo Tripodi. He was a tailor and a furrier. In his spare time, he built furniture, rehabbed houses, and loved to cook. Whenever Jan’s high school needed a helping hand to host an event, he was always the first to volunteer. Zeb’s dad was Clayton Gray. He became a builder with an artistic eye for detail. Clayton founded a construction business in North Carolina that became a prominent local building company. He was the president of the Civitan Club and impressed upon his sons the responsibility to serve others. We would often hear him say: “I complained I had no shoes until I saw a person that had no feet.”

We volunteered on Habitat projects in the past. For nine years we called St. Paul, Minnesota home where Zeb worked for the Hubert H Humphrey Job Corps Center. Job Corps was involved in several Habitat for Humanity projects in the Twin Cities. It sponsored a house in St. Paul. Every Wednesday an instructor would take twelve Job Corps students to the job site to work. It was an excellent “teachable moment” project that instilled the value of service in the Center’s economically disadvantaged young people. As singer Bob Dylan said, “when I was deep in poverty you taught me how to give.” Thank you St. Paul Habitat. The Culinary Arts class of Job Corps cooked hot dogs for about five hundred people at an event in Minneapolis to honor Habitat Co-Founder Millard Fuller. They provided lunches for St. Paul’s Habitat Annual Women’s Build project. It was a win-win experience for all! We believe in the mission of Habitat and are impressed with the passion and compassion of Greater Lynchburg Habitat for Humanity.

Zeb Gray with Habitat for Humanity International Co-Founder Millard Fuller.

Zeb Gray assisting a Job Corps student volunteer at a Habitat Build in St. Paul, MN.