Habitat for Humanity of Spartanburg celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2017 – 30 years filled with transforming the lives of 125 Spartanburg families who are deserving and hardworking. During the past two years since our 30th anniversary, we have increased the number of families served to 135. Habitat Spartanburg mobilizes volunteers and sponsors to build houses for low-income, deserving families in a pay-it-forward model.
Habitat Spartanburg was founded by a small group of core activists from Spartanburg churches who saw a need for safe and affordable housing – our core tenets today – in Spartanburg.
Habitat Spartanburg began its work on Celestial Street and Winsmith Avenue in the South Converse Street Neighborhood.
Ben DeLuca was the first Executive Director in 1992 and retired in 2006 and passed away in 2012 following a long battle with cancer. Mr. DeLuca was succeeded by David Ellis and then Tom Webster – two men whom remain committed to Habitat.
Lee Close – a community advocate who retired from Milliken after 34 years – took the reins in May 2014 and has led Habitat Spartanburg through a substantial period of growth.
Habitat Spartanburg builds seven new homes annually, with plans increase that capacity and to add home repairs, a need in Spartanburg County.
Habitat's focus is not simply on building homes -- we believe that by elevating expectations in families through providing an opportunity for homeownership, families are more likely to succeed.
We believe in giving families and neighborhoods the tools they need to identify challenges and to use community resources and best practices to create safe places to live and play. Habitat Spartanburg has realized success in neighborhoods like Habitat at Regional -- a neighborhood across Church Street from Spartanburg Medical Center -- and in the Una Habitat Neighborhood -- one of our first neighborhoods. Both communities have successfully formed Neighborhood Associations and are active in their neighborhoods.
One measure of success is those 34 families who have completely paid off their mortgages and own their homes free and clear -- an indicator of long-term financial stability.
The spirit of Habitat is not to rely on hand-outs, but a hand-up to help families -- and neighborhoods -- succeed.
The story of Elmer and Ana Servando and their two daughters is one of faith, perseverance and true grit.
Elmer and Ana Servando were born in El Salvador, but met when they were in school in California. After they married and had two children, Amy and Natalie, they decided to move to South Carolina to be closer to family and to escape high living costs in California.
“At that time, we were living in a one bedroom mobile home in California, and wanted to make the move to South Carolina,” Elmer said. “Looking back now, it was the best move we ever made.”
With their children in tow, Elmer and Ana moved to South Carolina and lived with Ana’s brother and family in a small, older home in Spartanburg.
Tenisha Parks remembers the moment she let go of fear and turned her family’s future over to God.
“If you want something different, you have to do something different,” Rev. Walter Belton told his congregation late last year. As she sat in the pew, the single mother of two boys, ages 11 and 14, clung to those words.
For seven years, Tenisha and her two sons lived in government housing where the boys shared a bedroom and went to sleep with sounds of neighbors fighting and on some nights, gunshots in the background. Beer cans and drug needles were strewn throughout the complex.
When she was growing up, Tenisha said her family moved at least six times during her elementary school years. Stability, she said, was not a priority, but a goal she had for her own sons.
“I decided in that church to let go of the fear I had,” Tenisha said. “I had a $700 title loan hanging over my head, I was working two jobs and I was letting doubt control me.”
Charlene Lyle is the epitome of dedication - one of Habitat Spartanburg's most dedicated volunteers who has worked 3,408 hours building Habitat homes. In total, Charlene has worked on 45 Habitat Spartanburg homes!
Charlene is a member of an elite group - our regular volunteers who faithfully give one, usually two, days weekly to building homes for deserving families.
"After retirement I was looking for something to do and Habitat seemed like a good fit," Charlene said. "I look back now and think of all that I've learned, all of the people -- now friends who I met and I'm so thankful for the experience."
Joe Mattison -- the leader of the Monday Volunteer Group -- is humble about the work and time the group devotes to the Habitat Spartanburg ReStore.
"We work hard -- we do whatever needs to be done, but we enjoy each other's company, too," Joe said. "We all see it as a way to give back to the ministry -- and to Spartanburg -- and we have these bonds now with one another."