'Toolie's 50th Birthday Blitz Build' family selected in Americus, Ga.

When Karen “Toolie” Warkentien celebrates her 50th birthday in June, an Americus, Ga., family will be the ones who receive the gift.

When Warkentien — who earned the nickname “Toolie” during her first blitz build because of the enormous amount of tools she brought with her — began thinking about ways to celebrate her 50th birthday, she wanted to do something that had real meaning. And as a longtime Fuller Center for Housing supporter and frequent volunteer on build sites, she knew what meaning a house has for a family.

That’s how the concept of “Toolie’s 50th Birthday Blitz Build” was born. The build will be held June 8-13, 2014, in Americus, where Millard and Linda Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity in 1976 and then The Fuller Center in 2005. Registration already is open for the build, but only 30 spots are available. Also, donations for the build are being accepted.

“I’ve been thinking about what I should do to celebrate my 50th birthday for the last few years,” said Warkentien, of Arlington, Va. “I wanted to do something fun but also something with meaning, something I could feel proud of, something that would benefit others.

“I can think of no better place than to celebrate my 50th birthday and build than Americus, the birthplace of the partnership housing movement, first at Koinonia Farm, then Habitat and The Fuller Center,” she added. “Plus, who doesn’t love south Georgia in June?”

The homeowner partners for the house will be Damien Battle and his fiancee Cassie Wilcher and their three children — ages 7, 6 and 4. They haven’t been able to afford a decent wedding and now plan to marry at a courthouse in March. Owning a home seemed even less possible than a nice wedding.

“I never thought it would happen,” said Battle, who makes $8.34 an hour at a local manufacturing facility.

“I just never thought that I would get a home … ever,” Wilcher said. “When I filled the application out, I thought I wasn’t gonna get it but filled it out anyway. But it worked out. I feel real blessed because a complete stranger is doing this out of the kindness of their heart. I’m a sweet person and am always nice to people, and I never get anything back. So for someone to finally do something for me, I’m just blown away by it.”

Like others partnering to own new homes, the family will make zero-interest, no-profit mortgage payments into a Fund for Humanity to help others become homeowners. And they are required to contribute at least 350 hours of sweat equity in the building of their home and working on others’ homes. That will begin tomorrow as they work with the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing on one of the covenant partner’s five Faith in Action Weekend projects.


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