Habitat Omaha rushes to finish homes before the holidays - Omaha.com
Published Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:25 pm
Habitat Omaha rushes to finish homes before the holidays

She remembers the first time she invited relatives to her home for Thanksgiving.

Come to my house, Glynnis Thompson told them. Come over to my place.

She had never before spoken those words. She loved how they sounded.

That was in 2004, the year Thompson moved into her home, built by Habitat for Humanity of Omaha.

Before she bought her Habitat house, she had lived in a half-dozen places in Omaha with her two daughters, moving whenever rent grew too expensive or her family outgrew the space.

“When we were other places, they really weren't our home,” said Thompson, a 49-year-old bank teller. “That was just where we lived.”

She would put up a Christmas tree in her rental places, but that was about it. Now that she has her own home, she adds more holiday touches, like Christmas stocking for her grandkids, and a porcelain Santa and gingerbread house.

Habitat Omaha makes a push each year to get families into their homes before the holidays, said Amanda Brewer, executive director. Just last week, three families closed on their homes. The organization this year will have completed 31 new or renovated homes.

“If we can help our owners purchase their homes before Christmas,” Brewer said, “what better gift for their children?”

Thompson never wants to see a moving box again.

Between 1986 — when her first daughter was born — and 2004, she lived in at least six homes or apartments.

First was an apartment on South 13th Street near the Henry Doorly Zoo. Then an apartment near 56th Street and Ames Avenue. Then a house on 36th Street near Ames. And on and on.

The rent would jump beyond what she could afford when she was a clerk at Sears and held similar jobs. One time she moved because she needed more space after her second daughter was born.

Thompson would rent a truck, and nephews and friends would load it up.

About 15 years ago, Thompson and her two daughters moved in with her sister a month or two before Christmas. Mom and her kids shared a bedroom there, and money was tight.

It was good being with family, but Thompson hated uprooting her daughters before the holidays.

“It was a rough Christmas,'' she said.

Thompson knew what her daughters were going through.

She grew up in north Omaha, the youngest of six kids — five girls and a boy. Her family moved around, often for the same reasons she did. Thompson remembers switching schools and saying goodbye to friends.

Thompson graduated from Omaha Tech High, and, at age 19, started working at an Arby's restaurant. She later worked at Sears in Crossroads Mall, then as a cashier in the cafeteria of a local hospital.

In early 2003, a friend told her about Habitat. She attended a workshop and applied for the program, which sells houses at cost to qualified low-income families.

Right before moving into her Habitat home in 2004, Thompson and her girls lived in a rental house near 42nd and Emmet Streets.

Girls in that neighborhood picked fights with her oldest daughter, then a teenager.

One day while Thompson was at a doctor's appointment, a burglar kicked in the back door of the rental house. Her youngest daughter, who was 12, was home alone. She screamed, and the man bolted.

And at night, Thompson would hear gunshots.

She knew her family needed a change, and her acceptance into the Habitat program came at just the right time.

Habitat conducts a credit check, verifies income and visits the buyer's current home to assess their need for a new dwelling.

Buyers sign standard loan papers, contracting to repay Habitat's no-interest loan over 20 to 30 years in monthly mortgage payments. Along with repaying the loan, buyers are required to maintain their homes, such as making certain it has no extensive city housing code violations.

Construction of Thompson's home near 50th Street and Grand Avenue started in summer 2003. In March 2004, she and her daughters, who are now in their 20s, moved into her three-bedroom, 1-story home. Her daughters now live on their own.

Homeowners contribute 350 hours of “sweat equity,” working on Habitat homes including their own, attending homeownership workshops and tackling other jobs for the organization. Thompson helped paint her home's interior and worked at the Habitat ReStore, which sells new, used and surplus building materials.

The holidays have provided some of Thompson's best memories in her home.

She has hosted Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas gatherings for extended family and friends.

Thompson loves fixing turkey, and dressing made with Jiffy cornbread mix and cream of chicken soup. Three years ago, Thompson hosted a memorable Thanksgiving dinner. Her parents, her brother from Florida and all four of her sisters attended, along with more than a dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Her sister, Sharon Thompson of Omaha, said she'll never forget that day.

Sharon remembers looking at her little sister's face and seeing her joy as the family filled the living room.

It gave the entire family a lot of pride knowing that the youngest sibling had her own place.

When you step into the home, you first notice the shiny wood floors.

Her walls are covered with family photos of her kids and grandkids.

She collects elephant figurines, and four white porcelain ones are displayed on the shelf of an end-table in her living room. A potted plant with flowing green vines brightens the room. A big aquarium bubbles in a nearby bedroom.

Thompson soon will decorate for Christmas.

In past years, she has placed a lighted reindeer in her front yard. She never did that kind of decorating before moving into her Habitat home. She didn't have the storage space.

One of her favorite Christmas decorations is a candle in a round glass ball, a gift from her niece. She displays that in her living room.

She sets a porcelain Christmas house on a table top, and puts out candy for her three grandchildren.

She bakes a ham on Christmas Day, and fixes sweet potatoes. She and relatives play board games and charades as little kids run through the house.

Thompson loves sitting on her couch, soaking it all in.

“It's joyful to have something that is yours,'' she said. “I can call it a home.”

Contact the writer:
402-444-1122, michael.oconnor@owh.com

Contact the writer: Michael O'Connor

michael.oconnor@owh.com    |   402-444-1122    |  

Michael is a general assignment reporter for the Living section, covering a mix of topics including human interest stories.

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