Avonce knew it was God’s provision when she heard about the nonprofit organization Dorchester Habitat for Humanity Homeownership Program at a low point in her life and when she needed it most. As a newly single mother following a difficult relationship, Mari had just had her second baby girl. She was shopping with her mom for a crib in the ReStore when she saw a flyer about owning a Habitat home.
“It was such a difficult time in my life, and I really needed the motivation to pull myself up,” Mari shares. “My mom pushed me to do this, she said ‘You have two kids now, and you need to do this for them.’”
After a difficult pregnancy, Mari was on a short-term disability from her job at Wells Fargo. After her second daughter was born, there was a period when Mari could not even walk. “My mom said even if she needed to push me in a wheelchair, I was going to attend the next Habitat homeowner information meeting because it was so important,” Mari remembers.
That’s exactly what happened. Mari and her mom, Pat, used a wheelchair in the ReStore. Mari was wheeled into the Homeownership Program Information Meeting that day to meet Executive Director Jaye Elliott and learn about the program that would change not only her life but the lives of her two young daughters.
“That meeting was an eye-opener for me,” Mari says. “I was at the point where I’m 32 and have nothing to show for it. I was currently living paycheck to paycheck and decided if this is going to be a change, it’s going to be a lifetime change.”
Since qualifying for the Homeownership Program, Mari has followed all the Program’s steps in preparation for taking on her first mortgage. She is now debt-free, has a higher credit score, and is financially stable. Mari credits her motivation to Jaye Elliott and her financial coach, Tamara Rivers:
“Jaye and Ms. Rivers so inspired me,” Mari says. “Owning a home is the biggest goal I’ve ever had in my life. It’s been amazing to be a part. They’ve given me much-needed pep talks when the road seemed long, and I couldn’t see the progress I was making.”
Mari’s time spent volunteering on the construction site has also been a learning curve. She loves crafting and refurbishing furniture, but nothing she has done before compares to building a home. Mari’s mom is also a single mother and homeowner, so it was a big part of Mari’s life growing up. “Now I actually know how to use a hammer and drill the right way,” she laughs. “I’ve never built anything like this before. I’m learning from my mom how important home maintenance is.”
As a financial educator for Wells Fargo, Mari travels to businesses and schools, training people to save money, budget, and manage their credit. She has worked in banking for 13 years but had never experienced the hard work she coaches others. “It’s a lot more real now that I’m going through the process of owning my own home,” she reflects. “If you’re not really doing it, the lessons and coaching are not effective.”
Mari tells future homeowners considering the Homeownership Program to have faith in themselves, stay motivated, and be patient. “I’ve been in this program since my baby was born 16 months ago,” she reflects. “Things don’t happen overnight but fall into place when they need to. God’s going to give you the strength and courage to keep going.”
Originally from Miami, Mari moved here eight years ago with her first husband when he was contracted to remodel housing at the air force base. She fell in love with the southern hospitality and culture and has lived in Summerville ever since. “I love that Summerville almost feels rural,” she smiles. “I’m so excited that Habitat homes are being built in Knightsville because it feels like the slower country life I want for my girls and me.”