THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Habitat for Humanity: Sweat equity should be no sweat for 100th homeowner
By Jason Lesley
Sweat equity won’t be a problem for Judy Hendrix. Not now that she’s only working one job. She still cleans houses on her day off, but only for two long-time customers.
It takes 400 hours of sweat equity to get a house from Habitat for Humanity. It takes $75,000 to buy the land and build the house. The Hendrix house will be the 100th home built by the Georgetown County chapter since it was chartered in 1991. It took a year to complete the first house. It will take a year to complete the Hendrix house, starting with fundraising that began this week and the owner’s sweat equity investment.
Hendrix is short and slender. She isn’t hard to spot as she waits tables at Applewood House of Pancakes in Litchfield. She’s the one in the bright red Reeboks. Except for the flowers and balloons that celebrated her birthday at the restaurant on Monday, no one would guess she just turned 70.
It’s usually Hendrix who arranges the celebrations for her co-workers, said Amy Valhos, who owns the restaurant. “She’s a sweetheart,” Valhos said. “She’s always doing for others.”
Hendrix started working weekends for Valhos eight years ago. A friend from Myrtle Beach called Valhos to say she was closing her restaurant for the season, but needed to find work for Hendrix. At the time, Hendrix would work 3 to 10 p.m. at that restaurant then go to work at a convenience store from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. She cleaned houses on her days off. “You don’t get sleep time,” Hendrix said, and keeping the schedule got her accustomed to getting by on four hours a night.
She needed the work, Hendrix said, because she had medical bills for her grandson Christopher, who suffers from epilepsy and bipolar disorder. He had no insurance after he turned 18 and it took years to get him accepted for Social Security disability benefits. With those in place and guaranteed hours from Valhos, she quit her convenience store job. But she took some convincing. “I’m scared not to have a few jobs at my age,” she told Valhos.
Hendrix was born in Tennessee and lived nine years in Mississippi before her family moved to Michigan. That’s where she got her first job at 16, as a car hop at an A&W drive-in. She came to South Carolina one February to see her son graduate from Army basic training at Fort Jackson in Columbia. It was warm and she said she’d move to South Carolina if she ever got the chance. That came 13 years ago, when she and her son moved to Horry County. He worked in plumbing and they found their way to Murrells Inlet. Hendrix has a daughter, who took over the payments on a modular home Hendrix was buying before she moved. The daughter sent her son Christopher to live with Hendrix.
With her son buying the home they have rented in Murrells Inlet, Hendrix wanted a place for herself and Christopher. A co-worker, Linda Duncan, is a Habitat homeowner, and she suggested Hendrix apply. “I didn’t think I could qualify,” Hendrix said.
At first, she didn’t. Her debt load was too high. She had credit card debt, accumulated helping her daughter back in Michigan and Christopher. Valhos encouraged her to pay it down. “I never thought I could do it. She said, ‘Yes you can,’ ” Hendrix said. She knocked the balance down by $6,000 in six months.
The Habitat board approved Hendrix’s application this month. She and Christopher will have to log 200 hours of sweat equity working on other Habitat projects before the nonprofit will commit to a lot for the Hendrix house. It will be somewhere in the Georgetown area. Land prices are too high on Waccamaw Neck.
Hendrix and her grandson, who turns 28 this month, have to put in at least 300 hours on their own. Another 100 hours can be donated. Hendrix already has a start on those, said Annette Perreault, the Habitat executive director. “A group of our Re-Store volunteers eat here. They designated their hours to Judy,” she said.
The funding will come though Habitat’s fundraisers such as the Souper Bowl and Pawleys Pavilion Reunion. There is a collection box at the register in Applewood, a miniature house with a bright red door and shutters. Cards on the table explain the campaign for Raise the Roof for Judy.
Hendrix will have a 30-year, no-interest mortgage on the house. She plans to pay it off in 15 years. “It’s something I can leave for Christopher,” she said.
A home of her own will be a place to enjoy the activities she’s had little time for in recent years; a place to cook, sew, knit, crochet and work in the garden. “Hopefully, I can slow down some,” Hendrix said.
But in the next breath she said she can’t imagine not working. “I don’t know what I’d do with myself,” she said.
For information about Habitat and its 100th house, go online to [E-Mail Article To a Friend]