300th Habitat home being built in BR

Before turning 8, Norvel Blackburn moved around from home to home, changing schools and always facing the tag, “the new kid,” as a result.

That changed when his mother, Alice Blackburn, became a Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge homeowner.

Alice Blackburn, a single mother, and her children moved into their new Habitat For Humanity home in Zion City in 1992.

Alice Blackburn’s new home was the 10th Habitat house built in the Baton Rouge area since 1989 when the group formed.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge celebrated the building of the group’s 300th home Friday, a celebration which provided a full circle moment for Norvel Blackburn.

Blackburn, now 30, and his own family raised the first wall of his own Habitat for Humanity home on Wall Street in Scotlandville.

“Today means this is the start of home ownership for my family. I have a place to raise my kids where they will feel comfortable and feel loved,” Norvel Blackburn said Friday.

Norvel Blackburn, an East Baton Rouge Parish bus driver, and his wife Takarri Blackburn will grab hammers and nails and begin working on their new home Saturday. The couple, who have two daughters, were accepted into the Habitat for Humanity program in the spring and have been working on other Habitat houses for homeowners since that time as part of their program required 255 “sweat equity” hours.

The couple, who qualified financially for the program, will buy the home with a 20-year mortgage held by Habitat for Humanity with no interest, said Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge Executive Director Lynn Clark.

The average monthly mortgage payment for a Habitat home family is $375 including insurance and taxes, Clark said.

Construction of the 1,100-square-foot, three bedroom home will take approximately 10 weeks, and the family of four should be moving in just after the beginning of the new year.

The Blackburn home on Wall Street is one of more than 30 Habitat homes built on and around Chinn and Wall streets in Scotlandville.

The Baton Rouge affiliate of Habitat for Humanity has been building homes in the Baton Rouge area for 24 years, Clark said.

The local Habitat group originally started as a outreach program of a local federation of churches using city-parish grant money from the Office of Community Services, said Diane Deaton, a Habitat board member and weather anchor at WAFB.

In 2002, during what was called the Rolling River Blitz Build, Habitat volunteers built seven houses in one week in Baton Rouge and Plaquemine, Deaton said.

Using a grant from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Habitat volunteers built the group’s 100th home on Bartlett Street in 2003, Deaton said.

Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, Habitat built four homes in one week in November 2005 for hurricane evacuees.

Mayor-President Kip Holden briefly spoke at Friday’s event and called the marking of the group’s 300th house historic.

“A H O M E without L O V E is just a H O U S E,” Holden said spelling out each of the key words.

Holden said the Habitat homeowners don’t just sit around and watch others build their home, they also work to “build there dream.”

Friday might be have been a celebration of the group’s 300th home as well as everything they have accomplished so far, but the volunteers keep on moving forward.

Longtime volunteer Lynn Bradley, a Baton Rouge architect, will start working on house number 301 on Saturday on Wells Street in the Valley Park community.

Bradley was one of two longtime volunteers named a Habitat for Humanity Community Builders Award winner Friday.

“It’s not just me. There are so many people who are involved,” Bradley said.