Julie Linthicum and Habitat for Humanity

Brunswick County Habitat for Humanity home recipient Julie Linthicum speaks at the wall blessing dedication with her sister, Cindy, and mother Joyce watching.

 

Julie Linthicum got a lot more than a job when she went to work for Brunswick County Habitat for Humanity last year.

Shortly after starting her new administrative position, Linthicum noticed a program offered by the nonprofit that places qualified people into new homes. The former flight attendant considered her own circumstances and felt the program was something she could look into, if her employment with Habitat didn’t exclude her.

Affordable housing

Linthicum turned out to be the perfect combination of employee and recipient, as the nonprofit celebrated a life-changing gift to one of its own with her June 3 wall blessing ceremony which gave friends and family the opportunity to leave heartfelt messages on support beams before construction is completed.

“I didn’t know exactly what the program was or how it worked,” Linthicum said. “I kept seeing people coming in and applying for homes. Being single with no children, and struggling just like everybody else with trying to find affordable housing, I decided to apply.”

The wall blessing at Linthicum’s future home on Fifty Lakes Drive marked a first for Brunswick County Habitat for Humanity. Never before in the 29-year history of the local nonprofit had it rewarded a home to an employee. After reviewing her application, Carlo Montagano, executive director of Brunswick County Habitat for Humanity, said there was no reason why Linthicum couldn’t be a partner family.

Learning new things

“We’ve built close to 80 homes and this is the first time we’ve done a house for a Habitat employee,” said Montagano. “I think when Julie applied, we asked ourselves, ‘Why would we not underwrite and potentially build a house for an employee?’ Julie works and lives in this community and she met all of the requirements. We’re thrilled to be able to build a house for her.”

Linthicum came to Habitat for Humanity through NC Works, a workforce program that helps people learn additional skills. She spent 14 years as a flight attendant before the events of Sept. 11, 2001, caused her to change careers.

“We were on the runway during 9/11 and got turned around back to the gate,” Linthicum said. “I didn’t have a lot of computer skills when I graduated college. It was a job placement, and it’s worked out fine.”

Linthicum wasn’t at her new job long with Habitat before the application process started racing full steam ahead. Sweat Equity is the work a future Habitat homeowner devotes helping to build their home, and she put in her Sweat Equity required hours – at both the Restore and the construction site – and learned new skills along the way.

Sweat Equity is the work a future Habitat homeowner devotes helping to build his/her own home as well as the homes of other future homeowners.

It is a central principle in Habitat’s mission of building community and partnering with families to provide “a hand up, not a handout.”

“Its been exciting and unusually fast,” said Linthicum. “I’ve been on the construction site, and that’s a whole different experience than being in the Restore. Its a lot of fun to do the hands-on experience, and it means more to you when you put Sweat Equity into it. I’m also learning, so if I have to fix something I might know how.”

Habitat has learned

Scott Raymer, Linthicum’s mentor, called the opportunity “humbling,” and said he learned as much along the way as he contributed, in that he got to work with someone who already knew some of the ropes.

“It has been an amazing experience,” said Raymer. “Julie is my first family (as mentor) and she actually had an inside track on a lot of things. The process has been really amazing.

“It almost leaves me speechless. I think my wife and I, probably, would’ve been a Habitat family back in our day if we had been introduced. It’s heart-warming and uplifting to be a part of this process.”

Linthicum credited her fellow employees with helping the process go so smoothly. Montagano said that having an employee as a partner family also helped the nonprofit learn some new things.

“Partner families need to take time off from work to do their Sweat Equity,” said Montagano. “We realized that with Julie as our employee, that an employer needs to be flexible and allow employees to take the time to build their Sweat Equity. It gave us some insight of what it likes to be an employer of a partner family.”

Linthicum hopes to be officially moved in by September. She then plans on spending a lot of time decorating her home for Halloween, and getting a garden growing in her new yard.