Latosha McCauley held up her cellphone and snapped photos of her new, pristine white washer, dryer and microwave.
Saturday was her first time seeing appliances in the kitchen and tan carpet in the three bedrooms of her new Habitat for Humanity home. Since last fall, about 200 volunteers, including 50 Duke students with the Duke Habitat for Humanity chapter, spent weekdays and weekends constructing the wooden framework, putting in windows, and painting the walls of the new home in Durham’s Lyon Park neighborhood.
McCauley, a housekeeper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with her fiancé, Anthony McNeal, and their 4-year-old son, A.J., stood in the middle of their new living room on Saturday afternoon, surrounded by community members and family who helped them bless their new home. The family said they plan to officially move in in early February.
The bright “Welcome Home” sign fastened to their new front porch paired well with the color the house, a cheerful forest green.
“I appreciate everything everybody’s done for us,” said McCauley, 26. “It’s been a long journey, starting back in February (2017).”
The Duke Habitat for Humanity chapter helps build one house in Durham every academic year, and Duke employee donations to Duke’s annual Doing Good in the Neighborhood giving campaign help fund construction. The Duke Habitat chapter received $6,000 last summer from Doing Good in the Neighborhood, which helped purchase materials for the McCauley/McNeal home, and students work directly with Habitat for Humanity of Durham on the project.
“I feel like we’re building a friendship, we’re building a relationship, with you guys and the people of the neighborhood, and I’m sure that every volunteer who comes out feels exactly the way that I do,” said Katie Lee, Duke student president of the Duke Habitat for Humanity chapter, to the new homeowners. “I hope that you have a beautiful future in this home, and I think it will be a great start and a new beginning to something wonderful.”
McCauley and McNeal received gifts on Saturday such as a birdfeeder, key rack, toolbox and stepstool, all built by Habitat for Humanity of Durham youth volunteers. Duke Chapel volunteers presented hand-sewn quilts, and Book Harvest supplied a book shelf and children’s books for 4-year-old A.J.
After the ceremony, McNeal, 27, led his son into one of the empty rooms in the back of the house, and told A.J. it would be his new bedroom. A.J. loves looking out the windows, McNeal said.
McNeal said they were also planning to turn the third bedroom into a media center, where he hopes to hook up stereo speakers. He chose a dark, gray wood for the flooring throughout the hallway, because it reminded him of his dad’s country home in New Bern, N.C., where he grew up. In a few weeks, McNeal, McCauley and A.J. will move from their apartment on North Alston Avenue into their Habitat home.
After making their home officially theirs, when the furniture is moved in and decorations adorn the walls, McNeal said he wants to continue constructing homes and giving back to Habitat for Humanity.
“The way I look at it, at this house, I need to pay my respects,” McNeal said. “I still want to help someone else build their home.”
Story and photos by April Dudash