This past June, Shafus Edwards tightly hugged her two young children and cried. She wasn’t alone. Each in turn, the Armstrong family cried, as did Rosie Congrove, the Dodd family, the Guzmans and the Gonzales family.

These were tears of joy, accompanied by laughter and heartfelt words of sincere appreciation and friendship. One by one, each family had been presented with keys to beautiful new homes that didn’t exist a week before.

Builders Blitz 2012

During Builders Blitz 2012, North Collin County Habitat for Humanity built six homes in east McKinney during a span of only five days. At a dedication ceremony on a beautiful June day, hundreds of local volunteers joined church, business and government leaders to celebrate the good that comes from people working together.

Standing on a stage beneath a large tent, Shafus Edwards faced the crowd and smiled. “Thank you!” she said. “Thank you so much for giving my family a place to live!”

For two decades, similar joyous scenes have repeated themselves in McKinney. September 2012 marks 20 years that the local Habitat chapter has been building homes in the community, says Celeste Cox, Executive Director of North Collin County Habitat for Humanity.

“I’ve been here nine years,” Cox says. “I arrived when we were working on house [number] 12. By the end of August or September, we should be on our 80th home. It’s possible we may have another four or five done by this fall, so we could reach 85 homes by our 20th anniversary.”

Debbie Mormon, Development Associate for Habitat, notes that the homes are not free. “Families are screened, background- and credit-checked,” she says. “[They] must be employed and pay a monthly mortgage. Habitat holds the mortgages on the homes and provides mentors to work with the families during the building phase and one year into their home ownership.”

Cox says she’s proud that Habitat is one of Collin County’s lead agencies in addressing neighborhood needs in partnership with residents. While building homes is a big part of what the organization does, Habitat also works with local churches, businesses and government agencies to do much more.

Together We Serve

“We are working together with Mayor Loughmiller on the ‘Together We Serve’ initiative,” she says, adding that city leaders have identified three challenges facing McKinney: education, transportation and housing.

“Together We Serve” attempts to address the challenge of affordable low-income housing by bringing together public and private entities as well as volunteers to build homes and spruce up neighborhoods by completing home repair projects.

“Through this partnership with the Mayor’s office and our own ‘Brush with Kindness’ program, we clean up neighborhoods, paint, install roofs, build foundations and do porch repairs,” Cox says.

None of it would be possible without the help of volunteers. This September also marks the third anniversary of Habitat’s version of a big-box hardware store. Located at 2060 Couch Drive in McKinney, the 50,000-square-foot warehouse sells new and used building and construction materials. Proceeds benefit North Collin County Habitat.

“We are credited with saving 1.3 million pounds [of recyclable materials] per month from the landfill,” Mormon says.

ReStore also sells used furniture, major appliances, electronics, lamps and more, all guaranteed to be in full working order.

“We are credited with saving 1.3 million pounds [of recyclable materials] per month from the landfill,” Mormon says.

“Pretty much anything you can find at Home Depot or Lowe’s you can find here, at 75 percent off,” Cox says. “In fact, they give us their returns, because even though there’s nothing wrong with them, they would otherwise have to ship them back. Instead, they donate their returns to us. We have such amazing partners.”

Dennis Heydanek, Habitat’s Board President, calls ReStore “our savior and our blessing.”

“It’s the reason we can do what we do,” he says.

Community Celebrations

From 5 to 9 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 1, the 12th annual “Taste of Collin County,” benefiting Collin County’s Habitat for Humanity, is scheduled. The theme is “Oh, the food we will eat! Oh, the people we will help!” Guests will have the opportunity to sample food from many Collin County restaurants. Held at the Frisco Arts/Discovery Center at 8004 N. Dallas Parkway in Frisco, there will also be entertainment and a live auction benefiting Habitat’s mission to build decent affordable housing.

St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney will host a golf tournament on Friday, Oct. 5 at the Ridgeview Ranch Golf Club to benefit Habitat.

On Saturday, Oct. 20, North Collin County Habitat for Humanity will officially celebrate its 20th year and the third anniversary of ReStore with a birthday bash in the ReStore parking lot.

“We are planning a community‐wide event,” says Mormon. “There will be food, prizes, proclamations by county and city officials, and additional activities for families as we celebrate the homes we have constructed during these 20 years.”

On Saturday, Dec. 8, Trinity Presbyterian Church in McKinney will sponsor its annual “Gingerbread for Humanity,” where you can get creative and benefit Habitat by decorating a gingerbread house to take home.

Thankful Family

After moving to Texas, Shafus Edwards had struggled to find safe, affordable housing for her and her two children. After a co-worker recommended Habitat for Humanity, she completed the application, held hands with her children and prayed that they would be accepted. Soon after, the phone rang.

On what would have been her sister’s birthday, she found out that she had been accepted into the program. Tarji, Edwards’ only sibling, had battled Leukemia before dying two years before. A day that had been a sad anniversary was suddenly transformed into a day of happiness and hope.

After the Builders Blitz ceremony ended that June day, Andrews and her two children walked a short distance to their new home in the 400 block of Carver Street. After a quick look inside, the three headed to the backyard. New sod had recently been planted, and a portable lawn sprinkler was watering the grass. With a big grin on her face, Edwards ran to the sprinkler and jumped through the spraying water, quickly followed by her two kids.

“I love it!” Andrews says. “I love my big backyard and getting to play with my kids in the sprinkler!”

For more information on North Collin County Habitat for Humanity or to volunteer, go to


About the author: Steve Burrell is a freelance writer living in McKinney.