- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - Donnell Davis served his country in the U.S. Army for eight years.

Now, Davis is claiming his share of the American Dream as a homeowner, thanks to Northwest Metro Atlanta Habitat for Humanity.

The 36-year-old veteran, who is moving to Marietta from Jonesboro, became the latest recipient of a house from the nonprofit Christian housing ministry at a home dedication in Powder Springs last week.

The dedication was attended by Habitat for Humanity staff and members of the crew that built Davis’ house, as well as members of VFW Post 2681.

Construction on the house began in late August and took about two months to complete.

The house is now the home for Davis, who serves as a volunteer in a number of community projects, and his two daughters: Mak’ia, 11, a sixth-grader at Mundy’s Mill Middle School in Jonesboro, and Tyjha, 9, a fourth-grader at Hawthorne Elementary School in Hampton.

A native of Portsmouth, Virginia, Davis enlisted in the Army shortly after graduating from high school in 2000.

“I joined the Army because at that time, I wanted to do right for my family,” Davis said. “I had a girlfriend at the time who was pregnant and I wanted to take care of my family and I thought the military would be a great way to do that. They offered me free health care and a paycheck. I really didn’t want to do it at first, but I thought this would be the best way to take care of my family, and I’m very thankful for the time I was in the Army, both good and bad.”

Davis would go on to be deployed four times to Iraq, as well as being sent to Kuwait and Qatar.

In Iraq, Davis was deployed to extreme combat zones, including one classified as an Imminent Danger area.

“All I can say is that was a very dangerous situation,” Davis said. “I don’t really talk too much about it. It was an intense situation.”

After eight years of service and having received a number of medals and service awards, Davis - who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as a skin condition - was honorably discharged in 2008.

Davis said his Army experience had a profound impact on him.

“What I like about the Army is that it gave me a chance to experience more of the world,” he said. “When you have a chance to go out of America, you have an opportunity to get outside of this bubble and it allowed me to see things differently and allowed me to talk to other people. When people tell me my life is like this and my situation is like this, I tell them that I’ve been in countries where you have real poverty. You need to see some of the things that I’ve seen and do some of the things that I’ve done and you’ll understand real poverty.”

Since leaving the Army, Davis has devoted himself to community work.

He has volunteered at City of Refuge, a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta, for three years, and also leads a boys’ mentoring group as well as volunteering at his daughters’ schools.

For Davis, his new home is a dream come true.

“This home is a true blessing,” he said. “It’s almost like it’s unreal to see how Habitat really quickly put together this house. I’m really blessed to have good people walk us through this process, the way they help and treat me like family. To have such good people help me build a stable foundation in this neighborhood and community is a blessing. The schools are very good and I’m just truly thankful to Habitat for providing it for us.”

Davis’ new house is a 1,500-square-foot, single-floor, ranch-style house.

Northwest Metro Habitat for Humanity partnered with KeyBank Foundation, Novelis, Lockheed Martin and Nissan North America in the construction of the house.

That’s not to say that the house was given to Davis for free, who put in 100 hours of helping build other homes as well as 100 hours of building his own.

“There is a perception that we just give out homes, and that is not the case,” said Northwest Metro Atlanta Habitat for Humanity CEO David McGuiness. “The families agree to partner with Habitat and they put in their 100 hours of sweat equity on the houses they are going to buy and they put in 100 hours in other homes. So they have equity in the home.”

McGuiness said volunteers who come to build houses are typically from the sponsors who also provide the financial resources.

“Once we have the home built, then the family actually purchases the house from Habitat for Humanity,” he said.

Davis learned about the Habitat for Humanity program from his association with DASH, a housing program based in LaGrange that partners with Habitat.

“My caretaker at DASH told me to come down to a meeting and I met this wonderful woman, Marianne Snyder (the family services director for Northwest Metro Atlanta Habitat for Humanity),” Davis said. “Sitting in the front row, we talked about the possibility of being a homeowner with Habitat.”

Davis was uncertain about the Habitat program at first, but eventually became a believer after experiencing it firsthand.

“I was thinking I wasn’t sure about it, because you hear about such things and sometimes, you think it’s too good to be true.” Davis said. “If I hadn’t met these people who had gotten a home and just heard the stories, I would have been more skeptical. But when I met them, it gave me a feeling that it might possibly be true. Then the journey started and I began helping to build other people’s homes, and I talked to other homeowners, and I began to think, ‘Maybe this is true, maybe it is real.’ And the homeowners whose houses I helped build came out and helped me build my house, and I knew it was 100 percent certified. It’s just a great experience.”


Information from: Marietta Daily Journal, https://mdjonline.com/

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