Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa helps city build back
By WVUA 23 News Reporter Jeremiah Hatcher
Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa has been around since 1987, but the organization found itself supporting West Alabama’s immense building needs in the wake of the devastating April 27, 2011, tornado.
Before that date, Habitat built an average of two houses a year. After April 27, 2011?
“We have built 90 homes since the tornado,” said Habitat Executive Director Ellen Potts. “We repaired another 400 or so. Of the 90 homes that we built since the tornado, probably 50 or 55 of those have been for tornado victims. Most of those are in the Alberta community.”
All that devastation gave the community something to rally around, Potts said, and the new homes there are a sight to see combined with the area’s changes.
“Juanita Drive is one of the streets on which we built most of our homes,” Potts said. “We built 33, and it’s not that big of a street. Now it’s a street where, if you drive down the street, you’ll see children playing in the yard, you’ll see neighbors talking to each other. It’s a lovely community that really has blossomed.”
One resident who lives in a home on Juanita Drive said he’s still healing from his memories of that day, and Habitat for Humanity has been a major boon in helping his life for the better.
“I would like to thank Habitat for Humanity, High Socks for Hope and people around the community for standing by me, sticking with me and helping me through my progression after the tornado,” said Robert Reed. “I know if I didn’t have had those people on my team I wouldn’t be where I’m at now.”
While Habitat’s work in Alberta is now complete, the organization’s new focus is in West Tuscaloosa. Last year, Habitat purchased 40 lots in the area from a realtor and was gifted three more. Potts said these lots ensure more residents can make homeownership a reality.
In addition, Habitat has teamed up with the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy on Operation Transformation, a program getting high school students learning trade skills experience in the field.
Students in the program help construct Habitat homes and provide construction, electrical, plumbing and other services as part of their training.