Wilson County’s Habitat for Humanity celebrated its annual Houses of Hope fundraiser dinner, along with its 20-year anniversary, Thursday night at the Capitol Theatre in Lebanon.
Among speakers for the night’s event were Advisory Board Chair Scott McCormick, Wilson Habitat Director Tory Tredway, founding Wilson Habitat board president Leon Alligood, Wilson Habitat’s first-ever homeowner Juanita Johnson, future homeowner Carla Coggins and Gov. Bill Haslam.
Before testimony, speeches and awards began, though, attendees were treated to entertainment from 2013 American Idol finalist, Janelle Arthur.
“That’s a tough act to follow,” McCormick said before recognizing founding, past and current Habitat board members.
“What you can tell about all of these people is their passion. They get things done,” McCormick said. “These folks have guided a lot of volunteers and sponsors through 59 homes in 20 years. That’s 59 homes built because of these folks.”
McCormick said, however, the journey still continues and Habitat would be starting house number 60 in a few weeks.
“It’s an honor to serve with people who work at what they do and are good at it.”
Current Habitat Director Tredway then attested to the 20 years that the organization was celebrating this year.
“Celebrating these 20 years, it’s causing us to stop and reflect and it’s also challenging us to look ahead and plan for the future,” Tredway said. “It’s important to acknowledge those who came before us and see how we got here and also look to where we go from here.”
Tredway told everyone to turn their attention to Legos that were placed at the center of every table.
“The thing with Legos is that they all have to fit just right, and Habitat is like that. With Habitat, all the pieces must come together for the mission to be fulfilled,” Tredway said. “Occasions like this give us the opportunity to say thank you to everyone in the community because every part and every piece is needed.”
Alligood, who helped start up Wilson County’s Habitat chapter, said 20 years ago it was hard enough for founding members to build one house, much less think of getting 60 built.
Alligood recalled a spring day in May 1994 when, after many highs and lows, the first group finally got the walls up on its first home, built for Juanita Johnson.
“I’ll never forget the smile Juanita had that day,” Alligood said. “Think about this: there is now a generation of Habitat children raised in homes crafted by this community’s love.”
With that, Tredway brought Johnson to the front.
Johnson, through tears, thanked all of those involved who helped make her Habitat dream a success, but above all she thanked God.
Tredway then brought future Habitat owner and family partner Coggins forward to tell her story and hopes for the future. She said the home Habitat will build for her would be a blessing for her and her family and allow for things she does not have now, like a garden and a place for her grandchildren to play.
Several awards were also presented by Tredway and board member and event chair Joe Ali.
The founding board of Habitat received the Spirit of Volunteerism award, College Hills Church of Christ received the Spirit of Habitat award and Lee & Lee Attorneys received the Community Partnership award.
The night then rounded out with featured speaker Haslam, who is close to the Habitat cause, as he was a founding board member for Knoxville’s chapter.
“In government, people expect you can solve everything, but the reality is the government has a limited budget and effectiveness,” Haslam said. “Where Habitat comes in is through addressing needs that is easy for the government to push away.”
Haslam said those involved in Habitat are there to fill the gaps that might often be overlooked.
“They fill gaps and needs and do it with compassion, and the world would be a much more difficult place than it already is without people like this,” Haslam said. “And I’m here to say thank you and I appreciate what you’re doing to make this community a better place through serving and loving families.”
For more photos from the event, click here.