It’s been a long wait for Lawrence resident Terry Smith.
But she received a pretty nice Mother’s Day gift: a place to call home.
“It’s hard to believe,” said Smith about her new Habitat for Humanity home in North Lawrence, which was dedicated Saturday.
Smith and her family have endured several life-altering tragedies during the past few years.
In 2006, Terry’s husband, Eric, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. In August 2008, Erica, the youngest of Terry’s three children, was in involved in a rollover car accident that left her paralyzed from the midchest down. Eric died a few months later.
“We had a lot going on,” Terry said.
But before her husband’s death, the family was approved for a Habitat home that would be fully wheelchair-accessible for Erica.
It provided Eric some piece of mind before his death, said Terry, who works as an office manager for an Oskaloosa business.
“He was just glad to know that the whole family could call this home,” she said.
The family’s ability to fight through obstacles was noticed by Kate Blocker, a Habitat for Humanity and Women Build board member. Blocker, through Women Build, acted as the Smith’s “Family Partner,” helping with fundraising for the home.
“They don’t let any hardship stop them,” Blocker said. “It made them stronger.”
On a recent weekday, Terry showed off the three-bedroom home, which was nearly complete. The most important features, Terry said, are the wheelchair-accessible walkways and bathroom.
For the past few years, Terry and Erica have rented a duplex in Lawrence that presented accessibility challenges.
The home is the 79th Lawrence Habitat home. Homeowners pay a zero-interest mortgage on the home that does not exceed 30 percent of their monthly income, and each adult in the family is also required to perform 225 hours of “sweat equity” into the home or another Habitat home under construction.
Like any new homeowner, Terry talks about the future memories she’ll build at the new home. Terry jokes about being able to make a growth chart on the wall for her 2-year-old grandson, Rocco, and not having to worry about what a landlord would say about the marks.
The walls inside are a bright white, but Terry said they’ll soon be painted to their liking.
Terry will opt for a neutral color in her bedroom, but not Erica.
It’ll be a little brighter and honor the memory of her father, said Erica, a student at Johnson County Community College studying graphic design. Her room will be painted “chilled lemonade,” the color her dad painted Erica’s walls years ago before his death.
Erica said the home is a well-deserved Mother’s Day present for her mom.
“My mom never does anything for herself,” Erica said. “The timing was perfect.”