Habitat for Humanity Church Responds to Mom’s Last Request for Daughter

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It was a local mother’s dying wish to see her daughter become the owner of a newly renovated home.

A group of civic and community organizations along with a local church worked to fulfill Charlotte Hillard’s dream for her daughter, Anastasia.

Debra Johnson, manager of St. John’s Parish Community Ministry, referred to recent home rehabilitation efforts as “Anna’s House Habitat Project.” She said the home’s exterior has been greatly improved through an extensive renovation effort as part of the Oklahoma City Homeowners Exterior Maintenance Program.

A recent project to improve home interiors was conducted through Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity’s Essential Home Repair Program. Completed renovations to Anastasia Hillard’s northeast Oklahoma City home amounted to a complete interior overhaul. Volunteers, many from St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church, worked on the Hillard home from Aug. 18-27.

Charlotte and Anastasia Hillard kiss in this photo taken at a family party.

Volunteers worked on the home’s bathroom, installing new shower faucets, a vanity and a toilet. In the kitchen, they worked on the plumbing, including washer/dryer hookups, drainage, faucets and the sink. New flooring was installed in many parts of the house, a hot water tank was replaced and a hole in the dining room ceiling was repaired.

Anastasia Hillard, 28, worked alongside Johnson and several volunteer groups during the Habitat for Humanity project. She said she was happy to see all the plans for her household come to fruition and that her mother, who died several years ago, would also have been delighted.

“My mom would be so grateful if she could be here,” Hillard said, as she looked around her upgraded home.

Johnson said she was thrilled.

She said Habitat for Humanity volunteers, led by Erich Font, the manager of the agency’s critical home repair program, even did unexpected jobs, such as installing new cabinets in the Hillard’s kitchen and a new shower door for the bathroom.

“I’m thrilled for Anna,” Johnson said. “I saw the state of her home and wanted her to have the things we all take for granted in her home.”

Anastasia Hillard's home is pictured August 27, 2022 in Oklahoma City.  Volunteers and workers from Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity's Essential Home Repair Program worked over several weekends to complete major repairs to the Hillard home.

mom on a mission

Johnson said she had been a youth ministry leader in St. John’s for 17 years and Anastasia Hillard was 12 when she started mentoring her. Johnson said she got to know Charlotte Hillard over the years and learned that the loving mother wanted her daughter, who has a disability, to have a home after her death.

Before her death several years ago, Charlotte Hillard told Johnson she wanted to fix up the rental house where she and Anastasia had lived for many years. Johnson said she did some research and found that only homeowners could qualify for most programs that would help with the kind of in-depth work that was needed. Nevertheless, the head of the ministry said she told the disabled Hillard that she would continue to pursue the plan she had for her daughter.

Anastasia Hillard said Johnson was like a “second mom” to her.

“I knew she was special and I knew she had a good heart — she reminds me of my mom,” Anastasia said of Johnson.

This was the state of Anastasia Hillard's home before it received an exterior renovation as part of the Oklahoma City Homeowners Exterior Maintenance Program.

There was only one obstacle to the project: Anastasia did not own the house.

Johnson said she contacted Hillard’s longtime owner and explained the situation to him. She asked him to consider canceling a debt the Hillards owed her and turn the house over to Anastasia, who could then get help improving the structure. When the landlord agreed to the plan and Anastasia became the owner of the house, Johnson helped her apply to several housing programs.

“For him to say ‘yes’ would be life changing,” Johnson said. “The Bible says ‘Ask and you shall receive’ and I just had enough courage to ask and that’s what his mother verbally asked me to do.”

Ann Felton Gilliland, president and CEO of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity, said her organization’s Critical Home Repair program plans to conduct home improvement projects for 75 homeowners like Anastasia this year. She said the agency hopes to expand its reach next year to complete 100 such projects.

Font, director of operations for the Critical Home Repair program, said the program has been around for about 13 years and could not be offered without generous donations from the community. He said money from the sale of new and gently used furniture, appliances, housewares, building materials and other items at Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores also helps fund the program. essential home repairs.

The program is designed to help homeowners who may be struggling to maintain their home due to various limitations such as age, disability, income and other circumstances. Font said the program fills an ongoing need and its ultimate goal is to help individuals and families make repairs that will make their homes safer and allow them to live in them longer.

“It’s a constant labor of love that we do,” he said.

And Font said the home-based program would not be successful without volunteers.

Among the volunteers who worked on the Hillard home was Luz Hernandez, who was helping her family complete the sweat equity required before Habitat for Humanity’s repair project for her mother’s home.

Erich Font, left, program manager for Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity's Critical Home Repair Program, and Debra Johnson, center, discuss how to install flooring inside the home of 'Anastasia Hillard on Aug. 27, 2022, in Oklahoma City.

Another volunteer was St. John’s member Mark Clayborne, who said he worked on the project with his son Mark Woodford Clayborne, a student at the Classen School of Advanced Studies in Northeast. He said he wanted to help with Anastasia’s rehabilitation work, but also help make her street and her neighborhood a better place.

“This is the Eastside and we want to spruce it up and make more homes beautiful and livable on the Eastside,” he said.

Reverend Major Jemison, senior pastor of St. John’s, shared similar thoughts. He thanked the City of Oklahoma City and Habitat for Humanity for their efforts to work with the church to help Anastasia Hillard.

“It’s a great job,” he said. “This is just the beginning for us and we look forward to all that the Lord will do with us as we go deeper into Oklahoma City’s northeast quadrant.”

Johnson said a housewarming party for Anastasia was planned.

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