Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Maria-Jose Subiria

The sound of nearly three dozen hammers pounding against wood echoed throughout Dunivin Drive, in Jonesboro, early Tuesday morning.

Employees of the Clayton County Sheriff's Office were hard at work building a home for Shrnita McKinney, and her five children.

The would-be carpenters were volunteering through Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, said Sgt. Sonja Sanchez, public information officer for the Clayton County's Sheriff's Office. They worked on the interior and exterior walls of the home.

All the employees of the sheriff's office -- chiefs, sergeants, deputies and clerks -- will volunteer at different times, Tuesdays through Fridays, until June 30, according to Sanchez.

"Part of my effort, as Sheriff of Clayton County, is to extend ourselves to the community as much as possible," said Sheriff Kem Kimbrough. "No government entity of any kind, in the Southern Crescent, has ever done one of these."

Most people know the Clayton County Sheriff's Office protects the community, but with the home construction, individuals will be able to physically see the office's positive contribution to Clayton County, said Kimbrough.

"You are showing your commitment in a way the community can see," the sheriff told his volunteers, on Tuesday.

Kimbrough said he has been serving on the board of Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity since 2002. The agency serves Clayton, Fayette and Henry counties.

The Sheriff's Office is involved in the home-construction project because, "it has clearly struck me that every corporate citizen should participate," Kimbrough said.

Garland Watkins, chief deputy in the Clayton Sheriff's Office, said employees responded overwhelmingly to the call to volunteer.

"Most of us live in this county as well, so we want to see members of our community thrive," said Watkins.

"It just feels good that we are lending out a helping hand," said deputy Dexter Ward, without missing a beat, hammering.

Shrnita McKinney said she is grateful and appreciative of the volunteers, and the ecumenical Christian housing ministry. McKinney said Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity has given her an opportunity to be a first-time home owner, and to provide a stable home for her five children, ages 11, 10, 5, 3 and 8 months.

She said she has struggled financially, and has moved into eight different residencies, over the last nine years. She said she now feels a sense of comfort, and relief, to finally settle in an affordable home she can call her own.

Willie McKinney, her 5-year-old son, said he wants to help build his new house, and is excited that he will soon finally be able to sleep in his own room.

"I want to sleep in there [the room] by myself," he added.

Shrnita McKinney said she, along with her mother and brother-in-law, will join in the home-building effort. "I am just so excited, because this is a start for my family ... I feel like I can be here for 30 years," said McKinney. "Everything I do, I do for my kids."

Brenda Rayburn, executive director of Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, said the 1,380-square-foot ranch home, will have four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a single-car garage.

The volunteer's from Kimbrough's staff are being monitored by a construction professional and eight volunteers of Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, who have worked on other home projects the non-profit organization has conducted.

"The sheriff's department is making a huge commitment to Clayton County," said Rayburn.