Cecelia Moody’s salary was never enough to buy a house. Though the single mother works full time as a food service manager for the Madison School District, high housing prices and other expenses always interfered.
Today, she and her children live in a cramped Phoenix apartment, the three boys sharing one small bedroom.
But that will change in just a week, when Habitat for Humanity and a coalition of churches, led by Scottsdale’s New Covenant Lutheran Church, finish construction on the family’s new low-cost home.
Moody and her sons, Gabriel, 13, Frankie, 12, and Daniel, 6, will move into their Chandler house after the Habitat dedication ceremony Saturday.
“They’re really excited,” Moody said of her boys. “We’ve never had a house before.”
Much of the funding and volunteer work that built the Moody home came from members of New Covenant.
Completion of the Moody house marks a milestone for the church, as the 10th Habitat for Humanity house it’s helped build in 10 years.
The Rev. Steven Kruse said the congregation’s lasting commitment to Habitat projects is rooted in its service-driven mission.
“One of the things we want is to be a church that serves,” Kruse said.
Christine Odom, president and CEO of the local Habitat for Humanity branch, said New Covenant puts “a lot of heart into the houses.”
“Through their example, other congregations have become involved and the ministry has grown,” Odom said.
Odom has worked closely with New Covenant members since they first joined the Habitat program in 1997.
Since then, the congregation has helped to build houses all over the Valley, leading a coalition of Lutheran churches, according to Odom.
Rayann Larsen, coordinator for New Covenant’s Habitat projects, said members of her church donated more than $100,000 to the program over the past decade.
Along with financial support, they also send about 15 to 20 volunteers once a month to build the homes, she said.
Working on the house “gives our church and the family the chance to get to know each other,” Larsen said.
Some of the bonds grew so deep, she said, that families from finished projects have visited their New Covenant friends at Sunday services.
But Odom believes new friendships with the homeowners are just the beginning.
The experience of building a house strengthens the church as well.
“It brings a congregation together,” she said. “People are excited to be a part of a congregation that puts its faith in action.”
The volunteers at New Covenant agree and are excited for the Moody’s dedication ceremony, Kruse said.
“The most amazing thing is when you get to see the families move into their new home,” he said. “There’s never a dry eye.”
Larsen and her team of volunteers are busy putting finishing touches such as landscaping on the Moody house.
However, a completed 10th house doesn’t mean the work is over.
After a short construction break this summer, the church will start building its 11th house in August.
“There’s just such a need for housing in Maricopa County,” Larsen said.
Since it was founded 30 years ago, Habitat for Humanity – Valley of the Sun has built more than 400 homes in the greater Phoenix area, according to its Web site.
With the trend of Valley housing prices rising faster than many family incomes, the hope of being a homeowner is growing bleaker every day for the working poor, Odom said.
“The only way we’ll be able to scratch the surface on that is through local partnerships” with groups like New Covenant,” she said.
New homeowner Moody said she cannot express in words what the work of New Covenant members and other volunteers has meant to her family.
“Without them, there’s no way we would have been able to build our house,” she said.