PUTNAM COUNTY, Ga. — Putnam County's chapter of Habitat for Humanity says they want a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
Former Atlanta Falcon, Warrick Dunn agrees.
They collaborated to make two families' wishes come true: to own their first home.
13WMAZ’s Jessica Cha went to see the surprise and what it means to them in a story that comes straight from the heart.
"The joy that they showed, the appreciation. I think that says it all,” Dunn said.
Founder of Warrick Dunn Charities, Dunn says this is the 211th home his charity has helped build for families. He says the surprise never gets old.
"Carla and Karmyn, when they pulled up. The smiles on their faces were just amazing,” he said.
Putnam County teacher Carla Lawson is a single parent. Dunn says his charity focuses on helping families like hers because his mother was one, too.
He says his mother was a police officer who died in the line of duty and never got to own a home.
"She only made $36,000 raising six kids and her dream was to own her own home, and I really wanna support other individuals who may have gone through what my mom may have gone through,” Dunn said.
He says not only are single-family fathers and mothers getting fully furnished homes, but they’re also learning about being homeowners.
“We’re also trying to work on financial literacy. We have a program called ‘Accounting your Future’ where we try to educate families on need versus what they want,” Dunn said. “We also have another that’s called ‘Scope’, which is a healthy food initiative to educate them on quick and healthy meals that they can cook.”
Putnam County's Executive Director of Habitat, Murali Thirumal, says folks are experiencing a global housing crisis at the moment. Habitat tries to help folks who are making enough to get by, but not enough to buy a home.
"These individuals have been well vetted, their credits are checked. They put in sweat equity hours– 300 each. They go through training on making sure they know how to manage their houses,” Thirumal said. “Homeownership is not an easy task and it is not for everyone. We don’t just hand over the keys. They’re deserving individuals.”
Thirumal says folks will also have to pay an interest-free mortgage for the next 25 to 30 years. He says all the lumber, the roofs, and the furniture and supplies were all donated.
No one is more grateful than Lawson.
“I was really shocked,” she said.
Lawson says she applied for a Habitat home in September 2021. However, she didn't think this would all happen so soon.
"Oh, it's gonna impact me a great deal. Houses are expensive now and it's perfect for us. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”
Lawson says she's been living in an apartment with her 16-year-old daughter, Karmyn. She tells other parents like her to keep moving forward.
“I hope I can encourage more parents to apply and not to give up because I didn't give up,” Lawson said.
Habitat for Humanity and the Warrick Dunn Charity built another house just next door to Lawson's.
Lawson says it's her best friend and a fellow single parent and teacher.
Dunn says it cost around $40,000 to build, decorate, and stock the home.