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Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County reshaping section of Guyton
Camden Ross
Sixteen-year-old Camden Ross carries a board while assisting Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County volunteers build a house in November 2020. Ross, his mother and sister will live in the Fourth Street Extension residence in Guyton. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

 GUYTON — A former Guyton dumping ground is being transformed into a heap of hope for a select group of families.

After cleaning up the mess that included old tires and numerous loads of rubbish, Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County plans to build four houses on a series of Fourth Street Extension lots.

One of the houses was completed and filled early this year, and construction on the second one started recently.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Jimmy Rutland, Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County’s executive director.

Rutland and a crew of about 10 mostly volunteer workers framed up the second house Saturday. It will eventually be home for single mother Fran Ross and her children, 7-year-old Elle and 16-year-old Camden.

“It was disgusting,” Ross said while recalling the state of the property a few months ago. “Let me put it this way. I found a 1970s ashtray buried in the ground. It had probably been there since the 1970s.”

“We had trees growing through tires,” Rutland added.

The property used to feature three crumbling dwellings that have been removed.

“There were no property markers when we got here,” Rutland said. “I told somebody, ‘For the first time in history, we have permanent property markers in this section.’ ... We found out we can actually get four lots out of this property because a (City of Guyton) minimum width for a lot is seventy-five feet, and we had three hundred total feet.”

Habitat for Humanity was given the Fourth Street Extension property on which it built the first house. It cajoled the owner of the nearby lots to sell.

Ross is eager to move into her house. Rutland predicted she will likely to have to wait six to eight months because construction is limited to Saturdays due to the volunteers’ other obligations.

“Oh, I thought it was going to take longer than that,” Ross said. “I am just so thankful. There are no other words.

“That’s really amazing.”

Ross and her children currently live in a tiny duplex apartment. The 1,200-square-foot house will give them about twice as much living space.

“I need a room!” Elle said excitedly. “I need a room for my teddy bear!”

Elle knows exactly where her room will be located. She pointed out the spot before a crew, which included her brother, started framing up the walls.

 The first Habitat for Humanity house built on the property was appraised at $145,000. Ross’ house and the others will be slightly different but likely be appraised in the same range.

Rutland is looking for prospects to become the Ross’ neighbor. Habitat homeowners pay an affordable mortgage, receive financial education and help build their homes alongside volunteers.

Ross’ house is the 22nd Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County will have erected in 25 years.

“When we start a house for somebody, I really want to have a family ready because they need to be doing sweat equity on that house,” Rutland said. “It hasn’t always worked out that way but it worked out that way with this one.”

Ross expressed gratitude to Rutland for encouraging her to apply to become a Habitat for Humanity homeowner. She was rejected in 2017 because her annual income was barely exceeded the limit for assistance.

“I made two paychecks over the cutoff,” she said. “The cutoff amount was increased the following year and he called me and said, ‘Why don’t you reapply?’

“We did and everything went along from there. I am very happy.”

To volunteer for Habitat for Humanity of Effingam County, call 912-826-6433.