South River EMC Awards Grant to Habitat for Humanity

South River EMC recently awarded a $5,000 grant from its Operation Round Up fund to Harnett County Habitat for Humanity.

“I was at a required safety course for Habitat for Humanity, when I realized we had no safety equipment,” Executive Director Mike Blackmon said. “I requested funding through Operation Round Up to purchase scaffolding so volunteers have a safe area for elevated work.”

Once funds were secured, the scaffolding was purchased, along with casters and railings, and will be used on the organization’s first Habitat Home in almost four years, being built in Dunn.

Habitat has operated in Harnett County since the 1990s, when it was helmed by executive director, Bill Cunningham. During this time, 18 homes were built and the ReStore was opened in Dunn. However, by 2014 home construction had stopped. Cunnigham, who had the safety credentials, was no longer able to make it on site. Gene Lewis stepped in as interim director, helping to reorganize and guide the organization, as well as look for a new director. Blackmon, the current executive director, has lived in the community most of his life and is retired from the City of Dunn Inspection Department.

Each year he raises funds to go to Belize himself to help build homes; this project is an offshoot from when his church traveled there to help build a facility for the local church.

“I was building houses in Belize, and I thought, why not do this at home in Harnett County?” Blackmon said. “Affordable places to live are needed.”

Blackmon has embraced his new position with Habitat, rebuilding his board of directors, making sure there are committees to take care of certain aspects, and most importantly, building homes.

Blackmon is hopeful the current home project will take about six months to complete. The family purchasing the home will be working alongside the volunteers, as the home is a hand up for a family that has struggled with housing security, not a hand out. With the benefiting family investing in it, the finished product is all the greater.

“One of the foundational principles of cooperatives is a commitment to community – we take that commitment very seriously and demonstrate it through Operation Round Up,” said South River EMC VP of Member Services and PR Catherine O’Dell. “South River EMC members have donated over $1.7 million to our communities through this program to build a brighter future one cent at a time.”

Mike Blackmon