Jammed into Annaliesa Sterno’s new home on Highway 17 Sunday afternoon were friends, family and those who helped build it, huddled together on a warm June day.
Not that Sterno minded as she took possession of her home, built by the Habitat for Humanity’s Effingham County chapter, with a string of emotions running through her mind as her family settled in.
“Freedom, joy, happiness, everything,” she said.
The Sterno family moved in Tuesday when Georgia Power turned on the power. Work on the home began more than a year ago, with college students on spring break doing the initial work.
“It’s been a long experience,” Sterno said. “You have your choice how to react to things. I know everything happens for a reason and God has had this house since day one. I go through all this and have this at the end. It’s just unreal.”
Habitat President Brett Gordon praised the work of the many volunteers and the Sterno family, along with the donations and prayers that helped build their new home.
“Today is not an ending point. At no time did we build anything for them; we built something with them. Just as we built this house we will build their family and this community.”
Since building the house has taken more than a year, Gordon extended his gratitude to the Sterno family for their patience.
“This is a day long in coming, too long in coming, but she and her family kept their patience,” he said. “We’re people of instant gratification now. When we see something, we want it now. God knows that isn’t what we needed. He is going to do some things sometimes we don’t understand, and we’re going to learn patience from it. We as an affiliate have learned patience.”
Even Annaliesa’s daughter Megan alluded to it during her prayer offering.
“Thank God for giving Mom the strength and courage to hold on as long as she did,” she said.
Gordon and Habitat Executive Director George Groce also complimented the volunteers and businesses who lent a hand and more than a little sweat in finishing the house.
“If you would have seen this property a year ago, you would not have believed where we are today,” Gordon said of G&P Erosion Control. “It’s the love and dedication of people who come out and do, not for the financial rewards, because of what we’re told to go. We’re instructed to help our fellow man and woman and families.”
The original timbers used to build the house were recycled, coming from a display of the Homebuilders Association at the International Trade Center.
Currently, Habitat for Humanity has three other houses under construction. Monthly house payments and others will be pooled to aid in construction for homes in other counties.
“This is truly God’s work,” Groce said. “We want to be a vessel through which God and the church can reach out to the community.”
Megan Sterno said the house was “a blessing” in her prayer, and it’s a feeling shared by her family.
“This has been a life-changing experience for me,” Annaliesa Sterno said. “I had to take action. I had to work for my home. It wasn’t handed to me. I worked really hard, and I’m very proud.”