Westmoreland attends Habitat house blessing
by W. Winston Skinner
Mildred Johnson is glad to be in her new home.
Johnson is the owner of a Habitat for Humanity home built for her on a lot on Domineck Street west of downtown Newnan. Newnan-Coweta Habitat for Humanity held a house blessing ceremony at her home on Wednesday afternoon, and U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia’s Third District was among those crowding into the gray frame residence.
“I would like to congratulate you on this beautiful home which you and so many many people worked on,” said Westmoreland, a Republican who represents Coweta County and lives near Grantville.
“The community will do a much better job of helping than government may do,” he said. “All of these people have come together from different walks of life to make this happen.”
Westmoreland, a former builder, said he has worked on Habitat homes and on projects in the Columbus area that provide homes for veterans.
“It’s a treat for me to be here. What really impresses me most is people who are willing to help other folks,” the congressman said.
Leslie Merriman, NCHFH executive director, said Wednesday was the first time a member of Congress has attended a local Habitat event.
“We get to celebrate homeownership — and not just any homeownership, but Mildred’s homeownership,” observed Beth Dow, who chairs the Newnan-Coweta Habitat board. Her remarks brought an enthusiastic “yeah” from Johnson.
“Habitat for Humanity does not give away houses,” Dow emphasized. She said the faith-based non-profit gives “people the tools” to become homeowners — owners of a “a home that’s safe, that’s theirs.” She added, “That’s what Mildred’s been able to do.”
The house blessing included a litany, Bible reading and prayers led by Minister Sara Brooks. Merriman and Melanie Frazier, volunteerism and hospitality coordinator, presented gifts to Johnson.
The house blessing features symbolic gifts — salt for spice in life, a candle for light, sparkling cider for joy, and a loaf of bread as a wish that no one in the home would ever be hungry. Merriman presented a Bible “so God will be at the forefront and center” of the home, and Brooks challenged Johnson to pray daily for those important to her.
Frazier also presented a white plastic laundry basket filled with “stock the pantry” items given by the Odyssey School Parent-Teacher Organization. “There’s a card that the kids all signed,” she said.
There also was a wooden coffee cup tree made by clients at the Rutledge Center.
“I’m not much of a speaker,” Johnson said. “I’m very blessed, and I thank everyone for this.”
Johnson’s home was built through a partnership between Habitat and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Thrivent has had a multi-year partnership with Habitat, and four homes in Coweta have been built or rehabilitated through the Thrivent-Habitat program.
John Setzer, president of the Coweta Chapter for Thrivent, said the local chapter’s work with Habitat is “number one in Georgia and probably number one in the nation.”
He said the impact of the Thrivent-Habitat connection locally goes “far beyond the number of actual Lutherans in the county.”
Johnson said she got on the list to become a Habitat homeowner “in February of last year. Frazier said Johnson put in “sweat equity” for her own home and other projects as well as helping at “the Restore … everywhere.”
Johnson said the hardest part of the process was “the wait,” adding that she was “anxious to get a home.”
Johnson closed on the house a week ago and moved her belongings into the house on Friday. She said she is excited “to say something is mine, something of my own.”