Homeowners in training learn money management

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Since May, Christina McMillion has spent many Saturday mornings hammering nails as her home on Privette Street is under construction. She’s also been hitting the books for the last six months as part of a financial literacy class that wrapped up Thursday with her graduation.

“Having and maintaining a good credit score does not happen overnight,” she said. “I also have learned that there are programs out there to help you get your credit to where it needs to be so you can get the things you want in life.”

The thing McMillion has wanted in life is a safe home in which to raise her two children, and thanks to the Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity and her own hard work, that dream is becoming a reality.

McMillion is the first of two single mothers who will be receiving Habitat homes in the coming months, but the program is not a handout.

McMillion and Tenesha Artis have to complete 200 sweat equity hours — 100 of which can be donated by friends and family — as well as pass the financial literacy class offered through the Wilson Community Improvement Association. Artis previously completed the class, but McMillion and others have studied topics such as building and using credit, developing and sticking to budgets, paying off debt and saving money.

“I have already started passing on the things that I have learned from the classes, like teaching Kristiani how to save money in her piggy bank,” McMillion said of her 11-year-old daughter. “I also have started getting Kristiani to help me make out our monthly grocery list, so when we go shopping, we already know the things we need. That way we won’t wind up spending more money.”

The course wrapped up last week with three nights studying the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s “Keys to Homeownership.” The 80-page book covers topics such as determining the personal affordability of houses, obtaining a mortgage and navigating the closing process. The class counted for 36 of McMillion’s sweat equity hours, but she still has a long way to go.

Volunteers have made real progress on the Privette Street house since starting in mid-May, but officials said McMillion’s closing date will be near year’s end. Once crews finish her house, work will get underway at Artis’ home, but the 40-year-old woman is working on McMillion’s house to get a head start on her required sweat equity hours. Both women will receive zero-interest loans on the respective houses in exchange for their hard work.

Suzanne Coker Craig, who started as the organization’s executive director earlier this month, said she’s proud to work toward giving those in need of affordable housing a hand up, not a handout.

A Place To Call Home

This is the sixth installment in a series of stories as the Times follows Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity’s two newest homeowners. Christina McMillion and Tenesha Artis will complete a variety of classes, volunteer hours and more before getting the keys to their new homes. To donate, volunteer or learn more about Wilson Area Habitat for Humanity, visit www.wilsonhabitat.org/.