LAKE WORTH — Up until the instant they handed her the keys to her new house, Camille Reynolds still believed things would fall apart.
They had before.
But there she was today, standing in a turquoise 3-bedroom, 2-bath house built by Habitat for Humanity as her three boys raced to their new bedrooms. Following the dedication ceremony, a crowd of elected officials and volunteers crowded into her crisp white kitchen with a built-in washer and dryer. They inspected her bedroom with its own bathroom.
She couldn't yet accept that it was all hers - the tidy little side porch, the trim yard with three blooming magnolia trees, the plumbago sending up frothy periwinkle flowers, the front door hung with a wreath of yellow flowers. "It doesn't seem real," she said.
In the summer of 2006, Reynolds was a full time student training to be a medical billing administrator and working two jobs when she went blind. Stress and lack of sleep made her multiple sclerosis so bad it affected her eyes. Optic neuritis, the doctor called it. A disabled single mother with no income, she and her boys moved into a public housing apartment, where the yelling and rough talk outside their windows went on all night. She didn't let her boys play outdoors even in the daytime.
Meanwhile, the foreclosure crisis was hitting central Lake Worth. On some streets west of South Dixie, dozens of older homes sat empty and decaying. There were break-ins. Gangs began to move in, neighbors said.
Lake Worth's Community Redevelopment Agency gathered 20 non-profits together, including Habitat for Humanity and Adopt-a-Family, and began buying the foreclosed houses. A few were torn down to make way for new homes. Most were renovated for new families. The money came from a $23 million federal stimulus grant intended to stabilize vulnerable neighborhoods. So far, the group has purchased 100 homes and plans to buy 30 more. Reynolds and her sons were good candidates for one, the people at Habitat told her. But even when they showed her the lot on South F Street where her new house would go up, she thought, "What's the trick?"
She was afraid to hope even while friends and family contributed the 500 hours of sweat equity Habitat requires from homeowners. Reynolds volunteered in the group's offices, answering phones. Her guide dog, Dolan, a jowly yellow lab, lay at her feet. "Something will go wrong," she kept warning herself secretly, until today when she realized nothing had. With the dignitaries gone, Chandler, the stoic man of the house at 12, pointed out the first room he's ever had to himself. Alliston, a 10-year-old chatterbox, explained the blue and gold decorating scheme he's planning for the bedroom he'll share with shy 6-year-old Shane.
Reynolds and her boys move in at the end of this month. Her disability assistance will pay the approximate $500 mortgage. And for the first time in a long time, she exhales. "It's really happened," she said. "We have a house."
Click here to see the original article from The Palm Beach Post.