Ray has worked hard his entire life to get to where he is now. His family struggled financially his whole childhood and could never “get ahead” no matter how hard they tried. He grew up in a one-bedroom rental (that had a lot of maintenance issues and poor insulation) with his parents and brother.
Even though his parents did the best they could to provide for their children, he remembers how he “hated to bring somebody to [his] house… It was an embarrassment.” But the difficulties they faced gave him the determination to get a job as a teenager and begin saving his money. He bought his own car at 18 and felt the pride of saving and buying with the income he earned himself. He will feel that same sense of pride on an even deeper level when he is finally able to build and purchase his own home.
Ray is not only working towards his goal of homeownership for himself, but also for his mother, Earline, who he has not seen in months because of the ongoing health crisis. Right now, Earline lives in a rental near Memphis. The house is in such bad shape that it is scheduled to be torn down and she won’t have anywhere to go. But Ray is also experiencing housing problems of his own. His living space is also scheduled to be torn down. He hopes to find a temporary apartment for the two to live in until he builds and closes on his Habitat home. He had hoped to have his new, affordable home before he was forced to move out of his current rental, but “Corona[virus] has backed all that up.”
Ray is so excited to finally be able to take care of his mom for the rest of her years. He told her, “Mom, I’m going to get us both a house.” He wants to take care of her to return the favor for how she always did the best she could to care for him. They have both always lived in rentals and have not been able to buy an affordable home.
After growing up in a family that struggled financially his entire childhood, Ray knew that it would take a lot of hard work and financial responsibility to get ahead. He gets up at 4 am every morning to get to his job at UT facilities services. He works to keep students safe and healthy by cleaning classrooms, and also cleans Neyland Stadium before and after every home game. Especially during the current health crisis, his job is more important than ever.
Even though he works hard and saves his money, Ray was not able to afford a traditional mortgage. With the help of Knoxville Habitat and UT housing, he will be able to build and buy his own decent, affordable home. He knows that he would “never feel right about something without earning it… God has blessed me with the opportunity to build this house.”