Latosha McCauley usually gets home around 12:30 a.m. from working second shift as a housekeeper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Then, around 8:30 a.m., she wakes up and heads over to the promising shell of her new home, where she grabs a hammer and gets to work.
It will take about 16 weeks for McCauley, her fiancé, Anthony McNeal, and dozens of Duke and community volunteers to build her new Habitat for Humanity home in Durham’s Lyon Park neighborhood. Volunteers will lift up the walls, insert windows, place shingles on the roof, prime and paint, and more.
McCauley, 25, has prepared tax documents and saved up money to achieve this dream of homeownership, all while working full-time, going to school for a bachelor’s degree in business administration, raising a 3-year-old son, and pitching in to build her home.
“It makes you value the house more because you actually helped build it,” McCauley said. “You have to earn it. Everything I have, I have to earn it.”
On a recent Saturday morning, standing on the concrete foundation of the house, McCauley and McNeal were joined by supporters from the Duke Habitat for Humanity student chapter, Habitat for Humanity of Durham, Duke University, and the Lyon Park neighborhood. Everyone enjoyed Rise biscuits and donuts before kicking off construction of the three-bedroom, two-bath house.
The Duke Habitat for Humanity chapter builds one house in Durham every academic year. This summer, Duke Habitat received $6,000 from the Doing Good in the Neighborhood employee giving campaign’s Neighborhoods category, and that money is going directly toward McCauley’s and McNeal’s new Lyon Park home.
The price to sponsor and build one Habitat house is about $82,000. As housing construction and land costs continue to rise, Duke Habitat relies on additional funding from the Duke Office of Durham & Regional Affairs, the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, First Calvary Baptist Church, Duke Chapel, and other grants, as well as continued support from Doing Good in the Neighborhood.
“We’re raising awareness about affordable housing issues and building the relationship between Duke and Durham,” said Katie Lee, a Duke senior and president of Duke Habitat for Humanity. “We get these Duke students directly involved and really helping our neighbors. We’re so thankful that we’re able to do this and for all of the partners that we have.”
From now until the end of the fall semester, Duke student and employee groups will volunteer at the Lyon Park Habitat home, helping to build a solid foundation and sturdy walls for McNeal, McCauley and their son, A.J.
“I would like to thank everybody for helping, and I appreciate everyone’s effort and work,” McNeal said to the crowd of supporters gathered at the shell of his new home. “When I become a homeowner, I’m still going to help out with somebody else’s house and still do good deeds.”
Support organizations like Duke Habitat for Humanity by making a gift to Doing Good in the Neighborhood. Duke employees can make a gift year-round that supports the important work of local nonprofits, schools and neighborhoods.