‘This means everything’: 80 cops, two hurricanes, one dream unite York home build

York SC Habitat for Humanity home built

A Habitat for Humanity home was built in York, South Carolina. The Beloved Community Build is a partnership with The King Center in Atlanta.
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A Habitat for Humanity home was built in York, South Carolina. The Beloved Community Build is a partnership with The King Center in Atlanta.

It took heat, driving rain, waist-high mud, a pair of hurricanes and more cops on her property than would show up for a typical active crime scene. But it’s here.

“This means everything,” said Brittanie McNeil, mother of three and the newest York homeowner, thanks to Habitat for Humanity of York County. “We’ll have a stable house for the next 30-plus years. They’ll finally have a place where they can ride their bikes and play and be outside.”

Habitat officials and partners dedicated the McNeil home at 837 Wilcrest Court on Monday.

It was their first Beloved Community Build. Another comes later this year.

The Beloved builds are a partnership between Habitat for Humanity International and The King Center in Atlanta. They began last year on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

The idea is to promote King’s stated vision of a beloved community, where equality and justice are pursued along with a decent quality of life.

Sometimes dreams take a little time.

Tim Veeck, executive director for the local Habitat group, had plenty of time to work on his key presentation and dedication ceremonies. The home has been all but ready since Thanksgiving. But getting a driveway poured and similar work done took dry weather, something in abundance Monday if seldom in the past few months.

“I don’t know that we’ve had weather this nice for a dedication in a long time,” Veeck said. “It’s not raining, which on this house was a minor miracle.”

Stefanie Barnette, director of program operations for Habitat, works with prospective homeowners throughout the new home process. Barnette said McNeil was about as prepared as a new home candidate could be to transition into a new stage of life, and still it was a challenge.

“We had 16 weekends of rain, we had a hurricane —two hurricanes — in this build,” Barnette said. “Sometimes God puts us on a journey.”

The journey turned out a little different from what McNeil expected. Along with long-time volunteers, helpers on the York home included NAACP chapters, churches, corporations, foundations and officers from the York, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Tega Cay police departments along with the York County Sheriff’s Office.

More than 80 officers showed up to frame the house one week last fall, starting on Sept. 11.

“I was so amazed,” McNeil said, recalling a hot afternoon that day. “How that first day there were so many people. I was like, we fixing to get this house built in one day.”

It took longer than a day, but Habitat leaders hope the wait is worth it.

“It may not have gone the way we thought it would have gone, or the way we wanted it to, but we’re here now and I hope that makes the blessing of this home even more sweet,” Barnette said.

Habitat homeowners have several requirements, including 250 hours of “sweat equity” in the home building efforts. Children old enough to participate get a requirement too, which can be met with good grades, by attending events or helping in other ways. Homeowners then get reduced-cost mortgages.

Born and raised in Rock Hill, McNeil has daughters age 12 and 7, and a 10-year-old son.

She most looks forward to them having a secure place of their own with room to play. McNeil already has a space in the hallway carved out for a bookcase. The children already asked for their rooms repainted with their preferred colors. They think they have their rooms claimed too, McNeil said, but she gets the final call there.

McNeil also is excited to pull into her own driveway, not having to fight for a place to park like at her previous townhome.

Since its founding in 1988, the York County branch of Habitat now has 70 families in affordable homes with another 120 families assisted through various repair jobs. All McNeil could say Monday afternoon was “thank you,” to the officers and volunteers and donors who made her home a reality.

“They came out in the rain, in the heat,” she said. “I thank everybody who took time out of their day to come out and help me build this home for me and my kids.”

Unusual as the weather made this build, Veeck celebrated Monday as he has many times before, and for the same reasons.

“We’re glad that she’ll be moving into the home and her family can make this a place for them to be for many years to come,” he said.

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John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.
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