By LISA MONTI
Nine Jackson area financial institutions will join together for the first time as a team to build a Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area home in a south Jackson neighborhood.
The banks all have supported Habitat by building houses, sponsoring events and serving on boards and committees, but this year’s build will be the first time employees of the nine banks have pitched in to build a home together.
The partnering banks are Regions, Trustmark, BancorpSouth, Wells Fargo, BankPlus, BankFirst, Community Trust Bank, Renasant Bank and First Commercial Bank. They will provide funding and about 200 volunteers for the build which will take place over seven days starting Oct. 21.
The Bankers’ Build is the fourth HFHMCA house under construction this fall on Greenview Drive, which in recent years has been overrun with derelict and abandoned pieces of property.
“This endeavor brings together an unprecedented collaboration among the banking institutions to create a brighter future for a local family while helping to restore a once thriving neighborhood,” said Cindy Griffin, HFHMCA executive director.
“The restoration of Greenview Drive has the potential to be a catalyst for rebirth and transformation of this entire area of south Jackson.”
Habitat officials said the construction of several homes in the area will send a signal that “the tide on blight and abandoned houses is about to turn. Through the strong presence of community banking partners participating in the 2015 Bankers’ Build, the commitment to building the future of this area will be evident.”
Johnny Ray, executive vice president of BankFirst Financial Services, will be ending his two-year term as president of the HHFMCA board at the end of December. He said the collaborative Bankers’ Build has a special meaning because it makes a difference in the community.
“We compete against each other but at the end of the day, we all want our community better,” he said.
Larry Ratzlaff, Mississippi State President of Community Trust Bank and vice president of the Habitat Board, said, “Community Trust encourages its associates to find something they are passionate about and go make a difference. Habitat for Humanity makes a difference and we are fortunate to be a part of their mission.”
Rob Armour, BankPlus chief marketing and business development officer, said, “When you have like-minded institutions and goals, you can create a synergy around projects that make a real difference. This Bankers’ Build for Habitat is an example of that synergy helping to change lives.”
The Bankers’ Build will construct a new home for Eddie Jean Smith, who lives in a rental house with her two children. She has completed almost all of the 250 “sweat equity” hours required for her to be eligible to become an HFHMCA homeowner.
“I enjoyed working on Habitat houses, and I learned a lot,” she said. “The Habitat staff was really good in showing us what to do and how to do it. I learned a lot that will help me keep up my home.”
Smith said she is looking forward to having a regular monthly mortgage payment and reasonable utility bills rather than spending most of what she makes a month on rent and electrical costs.
“I have dreamed of being a homeowner for a long, long time,” Smith said. “I just had to have faith. I knew God would take care of me. Now, thanks to Habitat for Humanity and the 2015 Bankers’ Build, everything is working in our favor. I know we have a brighter future on the way.”
Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capital Area, a nonprofit Christian housing organization, uses volunteer labor and donated materials to build basic, affordable houses that are then sold to families at cost with no profit or interest. Since its founding in 1986, HFHMCA has partnered with families to build more than 600 homes in the Jackson area.
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