Audrea Chapman was recently appointed to the Habitat for Humanity Cabarrus County board of directors. On the surface, that seems to be no big deal. Dig a little deeper, though, and an amazing story emerges.
Twenty years ago, Chapman was in the process of obtaining her own Habitat Cabarrus home, going through the vetting process, putting in the sweat equity hours, taking financial classes, anything needed to get her and her young son into their own home.
“We were living with my mom and her husband, and it was a two-bedroom house. My son was 10 at the time and we were sharing a bedroom,” recalled Chapman. “The house wasn’t in bad shape, but it was crowded.
“I remember praying every day for the 30 days before I was approved; I prayed every night for the Lord’s ble
ssing. At the end of the 30 days, I got that house.”
Last month Chapman made the final payment on that house. It is now hers, free and clear, except for the amazing journey, the wonderful memories supplied by the house in Kannapolis.
“Both are very proud moments for me,” Chapman said of moving into the house two decades ago and then paying it off recently. “The moment I knew I was going to get a home it was so exciting. I was going to have a home! From the minute I moved into my home, it felt … it always felt like it was mine even though it hadn’t been paid off.
“It is a wonderful feeling to have paid it off.”
“Audrea is the reason Habitat exists,” said Leigh Brown, Habitat Cabarrus board chair. “What she has done with a hand-up from this community will benefit so many people for years to come. She is truly an inspiration of what discipline can accomplish.”
In 2001 Chapman was working an entry level position at Cabarrus Memorial Hospital. A new home, she thought, was a distant dream. But her mother kept trying to convince her to at least talk with the folks at Habitat Cabarrus.
“I probably couldn’t have gotten a house the normal way. Once I applied, once I got involved, I got excited. I knew I could own a house.”
Even though it was 20 years ago, many of the same steps toward a Habitat for Humanity home were the same as today. There was a financial program prospective homeowners had to complete. There were sweat-equity hours that had to be worked, even though Chapman’s experience in that area was a bit different. Her home was sponsored and built by Niblock Homes. There was little job-site work for Chapman. That didn’t keep her from earning those equity hours though.
“I did all the volunteer gift wrapping. I volunteered on other homes. I learned so much working with the other volunteers. That’s how I got most of my equity. I may have missed my calling. I may should have been in construction,” said Chapman.
As she settled into her home, life continued to bloom for Chapman. Her family grew in 2002 with the birth of Samara. Cabarrus Memorial became part of Atrium Health. Chapman, who already had an associates degree from Rowan Cabarrus Community College, enrolled in Catawba University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. Her responsibilities at Atrium grew. Now in her 26th year with the nonprofit, she is a member of the accounting department, working at the Carolinas College of Health Science, which is part of Atrium.
“My children have never not had a home. My son was nine or 10 when we moved in. Samara was born after we moved it. It’s all she has ever known. She sees the importance of hard work and the importance of being a homeowner.”
Samara, who graduated from A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis this spring, was recently presented the Dana Conner Richardson Scholarship, which the Richardson family and Habitat Cabarrus awards annually to the child of a Habitat Cabarrus homeowner. Samara will attend the University of North Carolina Charlotte in the fall where she will major in computer science.
Twenty years after moving into her Habitat Cabarrus home, Chapman is about to embark on her next big Habitat journey as a member of the organization’s board of directors. Her first board meeting is July 27.
“I think it is amazing,” Chapman said of her board selection. “I was thinking recently ‘why has this not happened before.’ I think it is a great idea to get a homeowner’s insight.
“I think perspective is the biggest thing I bring to the board. Nobody knows what a homeowner goes through from the beginning. I can bring to the board that it wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it.”
She believes she can also bring a better perspective to future homeowners.
“I can say if I did it, you can do it too. I think it can be a great influence for others. I know it would have encouraged me.”
Chapman loves her neighborhood in Kannapolis. “It’s a good neighborhood. It’s been good to us,” she says.
There could come a day, though when she leaves that neighborhood, perhaps in search of a larger home. One thing is certain, though, her Habitat Cabarrus home, her first home, will always be home for her family.
“No matter what I do, I’m never going to sell this house. It was a blessing to me and my family. My kids will always have this home.”