Answered Prayer: Owensboro woman credits Habitat for giving her hope nearly 29 years ago

Jun. 10—Pam Acton's living room wall is filled with photos of her family — memories she's made while living in her Habitat for Humanity-built home for nearly 29 years.

Her Maple Street house is paid off and was recently remodeled on the inside.

But Acton, a 64-year-old retiree, had to overcome some challenges before getting to where she is today.

Acton said she found herself divorced in her late 30s with three children who were 9, 10 and 14 years old.

Initially, she was forced to rent small, two-bedroom apartments.

"All I could tell my children was that it was going to get better," said Acton, adding that she would sleep on the couch to give her children the bedrooms.

It was through phone calls she received on the same day from her mother and former mother-in-law about the Habitat initiative that she became aware of the organization.

Acton said they read about it in the Messenger-Inquirer and immediately telephoned her.

From there Acton, who sometimes worked two jobs to make ends meet, decided to fill out a Habitat housing application.

"I prayed for a house that the Lord would give me, and it would be mine," she said. "And He answered that prayer. Without Habitat and the volunteers, it wouldn't be possible for people like me — it just wouldn't. I worked at a job that had good benefits, but I didn't make a lot of money."

Acton was approved but first had to put in 50 sweat equity hours on a Habitat house that wasn't hers.

Jeremy Stephens, Habitat executive director, said the number of sweat equity hours is still the same — and for a reason.

"We consider ourselves a service-first organization," Stephens said. "So we're here to serve others first and when it's time for others to serve you, you've done your part."

When Acton moved into her three bedroom, one and a half bath Habitat home in 1994, it was house No. 14. Habitat is now up to 153 in Daviess County.

And at that moment in her life, Acton said Habitat gave her hope for the future.

"Habitat in itself is hope," she said. "Because the way they operate is for people with low incomes. I knew I would never have gotten a loan from a bank at that particular time for what (salary) I was making. So it did give me hope, and I wanted to give other people hope — whether you're married, single or disabled, Habitat is that hope."

According to Stephens, 48 of the 153 Habitat mortgages have been paid off and 90% of the original homeowners are still living in their Habitat homes.

Habitat takes applications year-round but only conducts reviews quarterly.

Stephens said the next review is in August.

"If you're interested and have a need for affordable housing, you can use all of the month of July to get us an application," Stephens said. "On Aug. 1, we're going to take all the ones we have in the pool for our committee to review to get the next batch in."

Since retiring, Acton has also volunteered on various Habitat committees and is currently on one.

"I just love what Habitat stands for," she said, "and I just want to be part of that."