Habitat build leads to fresh start

Local News

DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Habitat for Humanity is about more than just building new homes.

It’s also about building strong community relations. For local Executive Director Ed Smith, his first project led to a lasting friendship and a new career.

Smith wasn’t always in the business of building homes.

“Father John, over at St. James and Patrick’s, recruited me to be a project manager,” said Smith.

It was with that habitat project he met LaShawn Franklin.

“I had been through a divorce and wanted to start all over,” said Franklin.

While he helped give her a fresh start, he fell into one of his own.

“After that was done, I kind of had been bitten by the bug and I stayed with them and helped finish a house they were building on Hickory. By that time, they were looking for an executive director. I thought, ‘Well heck, I could do that job,'” said Smith.

Thus, he began building a new career, and along the way, building a better space for his team.

“We’ve spent the last year-and-a-half painting it, building offices inside of it, moving everything over here and opening the store,” said Smith.

Franklin, on the other hand, knew for a while she wanted to get involved with Habitat. She didn’t know this would be how. 

“I always wanted to volunteer to help build just so I could know how things work. That’s kind of what I was looking into, but then found out that I qualified,” said Franklin.

Thanks to a little help from a friend, her home went up, giving her a foundation for a new life.

“I know she’s gotten married in the last year, she started her own business in the last year. She’s just a really good Habitat partner,” said Smith.

Her story was only the first example of why Smith says this new gig was a good investment.

“There’s just a lot of good things that come with this job,” said Smith.

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