Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Members of the Clayton County Sheriff's Office finished building a home for a single mother of five children, on Wednesday, through Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit, ecumenical, Christian housing ministry.

Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, handed over the key to first-time home owner, Shrnita McKinney, during a home-dedication ceremony in front of McKinney's new house, on Dunivin Drive in Jonesboro.

"The key is a symbol of friendship, of love, of the future for you and your family," said Kimbrough, in tears as he presented McKinney with her house key.

"It's just like a dream come true," added McKinney, with excitement. "Just a place where we can go to, where it can be a family house."

According to McKinney, she has aspired to own a home, since she moved out of her mother's house at the age of 18. She has been struggling, financially, and has moved into eight different residences over the last nine years. To finally achieve home ownership brings McKinney comfort and a sense of stability for herself and her five children, ages 11, 10, 5, 3 and 8 months.

"It's good for her, but it's great for the kids growing up in a stable home, versus moving out in a couple of years in a house that they are renting," said Tanica Mosley, the eldest sister of McKinney. "I love her and I am proud of her. God never puts more on you than [you] can bear, and it's [home] here."

Kimbrough said Clayton County's largest issue is its loss of home ownership value and stability, and this is one of the reasons the Sheriff's Office participated in this project.

"If we want to see Clayton County grow and prosper ... we have to do more," said Kimbrough, who has been a part of Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity's board of directors since 2002.

According to Sgt. Sonja Sanchez, public relations officer for the Sheriff's Office, 230 employees from the office, volunteered to build McKinney's home. The employees participated Tuesdays through Fridays, in the construction, from June 8, to June 30, she added.

The Sheriff's Office worked on certain parts of the 1,380-square-foot, ranch home, including the foundation, frames, windows, garage and landscaping, according to Sanchez. The house has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a single-car garage.

"I learned a lot coming in," said Maj. Jeff Mitchell, of the Sheriff's Office. "They teach you how to build a house ... it's amazing."

Deputy Khadijah Mbacke, looked inside the newly constructed home. Mbacke said she vividly remembers hearing her fellow colleagues cheer her on, as she pulled a wall up with a rope to its upright position.

She said the first day the Sheriff's Office began to volunteer, she was depressed because her partner was in a hospital, due to a heart attack, and died later that day.

Mbacke said the construction project distracted her from the difficult reality she was facing, and also offered her an opportunity to do something good, for someone in need. "It was really hard for me to be here, but I got here," she said.

Cara Welch, chief development officer for Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, said the organization's volunteers make a difference in communities by building homes for lower-income individuals, and, thereby, expanding neighborhoods with new builds.

"We like to say we build home owners and we strengthen communities," said Welch.

Welch said McKinney will be able to move in next weekend, since items, such as the carpet, and the doorknobs for interior doors, still need to be installed.

She said individuals and families interested in seeing if they pre-qualify for the program, should visit, http://testhabitat.neworg.com, and apply online.