Jacqueline Meyer and her Mom Carolina Sierra celebrate the raising of the first wall of their new habitat home last week, a partnership between Schreiner University, First Presyterian Church and Habitat for Humanity.

Described by all three parties involved as a “unique community collaboration,” Schreiner University, First Presbyterian Church and Habitat for Humanity Kerr County raised the first wall of Habitat house #123 on Glenn Court in the Maud Jennings Subdivision on Thursday. The home will be the final home built in the subdivision named after one of the three founders of the Kerr County Habitat affiliate.

The collaboration symbolizes the Centennial Celebration of the university and is part of a year-long celebration of the founding of the school in 1923. Dr. Charlie McCormick, current president of Schreiner University, describes this year as a symbol of new beginnings, fresh starts and infinite possibilities and representing endurance and unconquerability.

“There are so many important things which we help our students learn and prepare for:  first jobs, third careers, wellness, joy – and chief among these outcomes:  the capacity for purposeful living,” McCormick said.

McCormick praised Nancy Bolzle from Schreiner for serving as the guiding star and chief organizer on the project and reminding everyone that “there is a way to make our commitment to purposeful lives not just rhetoric, but reality.”

“Habitat for Humanity cares a lot about purposeful living, too, so does First Presbyterian Church.  As part of Schreiner’s centennial celebration, then, we determined that we could not find better partners than Habitat and First Presbyterian to help us – employees, students, and friends of Schreiner – actualize the University’s mission of living purposefully,” McCormick added.

Dr. Sam Junkin, president emeritus of Schreiner University, was also in attendance at the wall-raising event. His son, Tom Junkin, is the construction manager for the affiliate which depends on volunteer labor and sweat equity hours of the future homeowners for most of the actual work during the construction phase of the homes.

“We are humbled by the remarkable commitment of Schreiner University and the First Presbyterian Church of Kerrville to empower local families to reach financial stability through homeownership. Habitat for Humanity Kerr County is honored to commemorate this momentus Centennial anniversary of Schreiner University,” said Mary Campana, executive director of Habitat Kerr County.

The home will be built in partnership with Carolina Sierra and her seven-year-old daughter Jacqueline. Carolina works at the Kerrville State Hospital.

Carolina in her application for a Habitat home said, “Jacqueline is the most important person in my life and all I want is to have a stable home that she can grow up in and enjoy life to the fullest. Habitat for Humanity gives me hope and fills my heart with happiness knowing how many families you have helped and I want to be a part of that.”

First Presbyterian Church’s interim pastor Rev. Dr. Jack Haberer explained how the church got involved in helping to build this Habitat home.

“John Mallory, a church member and who is active in the local Habitat program and serves on the church’s board of elders said we need to do more outreach in the community. Blake Smith and others in our church who are also involved in the Habitat program studied the issue and came back with the recommendation that we participate. Blake talked to Mark Tuschak, VP for Development at Schreiner,” Haberer said.

Haberer also pointed out that 2023 is also the 100th anniversary of the original church chapel at First Presbyterian Church, the Schreiner Chapel, so the idea of joining with the Habitat project was perfect.

First Presbyterian and Schreiner University will share the cost of the materials for the home on a 50/50 basis and Haberer said after a church meeting voted to participate the church as already raised the funds pledged by the church for the home.

“We will also participate in the actual building of the home, provide meals for the workers and do the devotionals during the construction,” Haberer said. He also pointed out that the late Maud Jennings was a longtime member of First Presbyterian Church so it was fitting that the church be involved in the final home to be built in the subdivision named for her.

Habitat for Humanity Kerr County’s history goes back to then Trinity Baptist Church pastor Bill Blackburn seeing a Habitat for Humanity bumper sticker on a pickup in a local parking lot. Blackburn put his business card under the windshield wiper asking the pickup’s owner to contact him to discuss the creation of a local Habitat organization. The pickup belonged to longtime Habitat volunteer C.J. “Burly” Burleson. After several meetings, Burleson and Blackburn recruited retired Peterson Middle School English teacher Maud Jennings to join in the effort. Jennings had worked at Habitat International headquarters in Americus, Ga., and understood the mission and organization.

A community-wide invitation was extended for a meeting at First Presbyterian Church to see if there was interest in the program. Attendees enthusiastically agreed on the need to start a program and began securing funds for the first home. With the help of the Area Community Trust they were able to purchase a lot and found volunteers to build the first home for a local family on Coleman Street. The home was completed in 1990. By 1998 there were 25 Habitat homes completed in various parts of the community.

The affiliate reached another milestone in October 2001 when groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the first home in the Meadowview Subdivision, which eventually saw 22 homes constructed by the Habitat volunteers and homeowners.

In 2006 the local Habitat affiliate opened the Habitat Restore on Business Drive off Goat Creek Cut-Off. The Restore offers a variety of donated construction materials and other household items for sale to the public and proceeds go toward building homes for low-income families in the community.

The first paid employees came onboard when the Restore manager was hired in 2006 and a construction supervisor and executive director were added in 2007. More than 30 years of service to the community and families had been led totally by volunteers.

By October of 2009 the local Habitat program had successfully constructed a total of 83 homes for low-income families in the community and the same year began construction on the Maud Jennings Subdivision.

Habitat for Humanity is an ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to partnering with God and community volunteers to provide qualified families the opportunity to own decent, affordable homes. The average production is four to five homes each year, and the final five homes currently under construction in the Maud Jennings Subdivision are scheduled for completion by the end of 2023.

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