By Curt Yeomans
Dana Pettigrew and her four children have been living in a two-bedroom apartment in Jonesboro for nearly six years.
The 29-year-old, single mother sleeps on the couch while her children, including daughter, Kourtney Pettigrew, 9, and sons, Dawan Mitchell, 10, Keith Whitfield, 4, and Daniel Pettigrew, 3, share the two bedrooms.
Dana Pettigrew's family is one of eight that will receive houses being built in Jonesboro this week, through Habitat for Humanity International and the Whirlpool Corporation's annual Building Blocks initiative.
The Pettigrew family will be living in a four-bedroom house, once it is finished. Everyone in the family, except the two youngest children, will have their own bedroom.
"This will be a big, and much needed, change," Dana Pettigrew said as she took a break from putting siding on her future home. "Right now, where I'm living, I don't have room for much furniture, so I'm looking forward to being able to furnish this space. Having so much room will be the biggest adjustment, but I'm sure I'll get used to it quickly."
This is the fourth year Habitat for Humanity International and the Whirlpool Corporation have done the Building Blocks program. Each year, a different city around the country is chosen as the building site. In past years, the program has been done in Nashville, Tenn., Phoenix, Ariz., and Dallas, Texas.
This year, it is metropolitan Atlanta's turn, and the Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity and Atlanta Habitat for Humanity affiliates have joined up to be the hosts. Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity Spokesperson Cara Welch said this is the largest building project the affiliate has hosted.
Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Brenda Rayburn said the value of companies, like Whirlpool, participating in Habitat for Humanity's builds is that they get to help improve the communities in which they serve. "It's the giving back to the community, of participating in something bigger than yourself, that's so great about this," Rayburn said.
The eight houses are being built in Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity's Avery neighborhood in Jonesboro. Four of the houses will go to Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity families, and the other four will go to Atlanta Habitat for Humanity families, Rayburn said.
She said the two affiliates joined forces to share the costs of building eight houses, and to pool their volunteer resources.
There are 250 Habitat and Whirlpool volunteers, from 31 states across the country, who have descended upon Jonesboro to participate in the effort, said Debbie Ramirez, Whirlpool's manager of corporate commitments.
"The fact that this is a partnership between two Habitat for Humanity affiliates is one of the things that attracted us to this site," Ramirez said. "It's a very unique collaboration."
Ebonie and De'Andre Reeves said the fact that so many houses are being built at the same time will help build a sense of community among the eight families that will move into the houses. The husband and wife said they and their daughters, Jala, 4, and Kaitlyn, 2, expect to move into their house in October.
Ebonie and De'Andre Reeves grew up in Clayton County, but currently live in McDonough. "I think the number of houses built at once makes it great," Ebonie Reeves said. "It helps us [the families] develop relationships with each other, so we already know our neighbors when we move in."
De'Andre Reeves added, "We know we can trust each other to look out for homes, if we're away."
Ramirez said there were 600 people who applied to be Building Blocks volunteers this year, and they were chosen based on essays they submitted about why they wanted to participate in the program.
One of the Whirlpool employees chosen this year is Rick Norton, a communications manager from the company's Cleveland, Tenn., office. Norton is one of six people working on this year's build, who also worked on the previous three Building Blocks projects.
"I do every year, because there are so few opportunities in life to have this type of impact on somebody's life," Norton said. "You're not just building a home, you're also building a future. You're building hope ... If there is a good form of addiction, that's what it is."