TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — For Bridgette McCoy and her family, owning their first home was an accomplishment that required years of hard work and sacrifice.
On Tuesday, Aug. 17, McCoy received the keys to her new home, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity. Side by side her daughter, J’Monica, and grandson Layden during a short dedication ceremony, McCoy said the house represents more than just brick and wood.
“My tears are going to come once I start moving in and seeing that this is now mine,” she said. “The work doesn’t stop, but now you know that this is the home you come to every day.”
The McCoy family went through a lot before receiving their new home. Several years ago, Bridgette McCoy was living with her mother. It was her father, who watched as she worked to build her credit, who suggested she apply for a house from Northeast Mississippi Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that seeks to provide affordable housing by partnering with volunteers, potential homeowners and the community to build housing.
Within a few weeks, McCoy’s application was approved. Then, in 2016, the family suffered a tragic setback: her teenage daughter, J’Monica, was shot, leaving her paralyzed.
Habitat for Humanity requires recipients of its homes to invest “sweat equity” in their construction. This comes as a required number of hours of work building the house (or other Habitat homes), which is often divided among the home’s recipient, family members and friends.
Because McCoy suddenly found herself as a full-time caretaker for her daughter, a few members of the Orchard Church in Tupelo who’d heard of the family’s situation immediately jumped in to help.
“(They) came and finished my hours for me as I was helping J’Monica and getting her back to healing,” McCoy said.
Meanwhile, McCoy focused on taking her daughter to different hospitals, going as far as Shriners Hospital for Children in Chicago, where they taught her daughter how to live, dress and cook. They provided her with necessary tools to live a full life, despite her paralysis.
Once her daughter returned home in May 2017 and graduated from Tupelo High School, McCoy jumped back in with her Habitat for Humanity service.
For McCoy, the journey to get her home was well worth it. After doing 200 hours of work on a partner’s home and 100 on her own, she has learned how to be patient, show up on time, and get along with other partners and volunteers. She’s especially thankful to construction manager Chris Parton, who was right there showing partners and volunteers what to do.
For Parton, dedication day is the accomplishment he works toward.
“You get to work beside some people who have no idea how to do any construction related things,” Parton said. “It’s really awesome being able to do that and build not only an affordable home, but a safe home, an energy efficient home, and a home people can be proud of. It’s one of the better jobs that you can have in this world.”
This was the first home dedication for NEMS Habitat for Humanity executive director Mary Ann Plasencia. The project allowed her to see how much the organization relies on volunteers, sourcing out materials, and the generosity of local businesses.
Sponsors included the City of Tupelo, Toyota Mississippi, Hunter Douglas, Renasant Bank, State Farm, First United Methodist Church, Magnolia Brick, BancorpSouth, Tupelo Garden Club, Atmos Energy, J. Britt Lighting and Interiors, Plan House Printing, Farrell Calhoun, Harrisburg Baptist Church, Sherwin Williams, Home Stretch, Designer Connection and Relief for the Weary.
As with McCoy, the house represents more to Plasencia than simply four walls and a roof. It stands as a testament to the spirit of generosity that exists throughout Northeast Mississippi, a willingness to come together and help each other, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Plasencia said she’s glad that Habitat for Humanity can introduce more family stability and another taxpayer into the city.
“Bridgette has put her hands, feet, heart, soul into this for sure, right alongside Chris,” Plasenica said. “It’s a pretty sacred day. We talk about affordable housing being impactful, but I think affordable housing is a change agent for a family.”
The closer McCoy got to reaching her goal, the more excited she found herself. In the end, she would drive by her home every day until she finally reached her home dedication day.
“There was not a day when I would drive by her just to look and say, ‘God, you made this possible, and I thank you for it every day,’” McCoy said. “I’m continuing, even after the keys are given to me, I just still thank him because it was him that made this possible.”
McCoy said she’s looking forward to decorating … or, at least, allowing J’Monica to decorate … and celebrating the holidays in her new home.
“I want to thank Jesus, first and foremost, and I love to thank each and every one that had anything to do with the build of this home, from the wood to the mailbox,” McCoy said. “From the plumbers, the flowers, the electrician, Home Stretch, everybody.”