Monday, February 8, 2016

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$The Williams family —Jeremiah, 10, Malachi, 6, mother Umeki, Deborah, 8, and DeQuensce, 17 —gathers in front of their Christmas tree. Their new house was dedicated to the memory of Bill Eaton, a longtime Habitat volunteer.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$

Umeki Williams accepts a Bible from Aaron Lehman, construction manager for the Habitat for Humanity effort that built a home for the Williams family. Behind them at left is Tom McArthur, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Elkhart County. (Truth Photo By Jim Miller)

$PHOTOCREDIT_ON$Umeki Williams of Elkhart (left) and her four children recently moved into their new home on C.R. 1, which was built by Habitat for Humanity of Elkhart County. Deborah, 8; Jeremiah, 10; and Malachi, 6, wrestle as their mother supervises while preparing dinner.$PHOTOCREDIT_OFF$
Milestone house becomes this family’s new home

Posted on Dec. 22, 2011 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Dec. 22, 2011 at 12:29 a.m.

ELKHART — There’s a new Habitat for Humanity house west of Elkhart that’s special for a lot of reasons, and so is the family living in it.

It’s the 150th Habitat for Humanity house in Elkhart County, a pretty significant milestone for a community this size, noted Tom McArthur, executive director of the local Habitat organization.

It was dedicated to the memory of Bill Eaton, a longtime Habitat volunteer who died this year. Eaton kept building houses into his 80s and worked on more than 100 in all.

And for Umeki Williams and her children, the house on C.R. 1 is a tangible symbol of how far they have come in the last couple of years with the support of many people with good hearts.

“I love it — we love it. It’s awesome,” is how Williams described her feelings about the home just before it was officially dedicated this week.

The journey toward a new family home had a rocky beginning. Williams and her kids — DeQuensce, 17, Jeremiah, 10, Deborah, 8, and Malachi, 6 — were homeless about two years ago after the end of Williams’s marriage.

She felt God directing her toward what then was known as Family Services of Elkhart County — now iFit. What happened next was almost too improbable to believe.

The woman Williams was talking to when she called iFit was Jen Doty, director of the transitional housing program. Doty asked for the woman’s name. When she heard “Umeki,” Doty put the name together with the voice and realized it was someone she had known as a child.

“I met Meka in the fifth grade,” Doty said, but after knowing her for a couple of years, lost track of her and didn’t see or talk to her again until 2009, in that phone call. “She told me she was going through a divorce and was homeless.”

The phone call led to a temporary stay in a local women’s shelter, and Williams enrolled in iFit’s transitional housing program, which involves about two years of instruction and support. Doty said the program helps homeless people gain employment and teaches them parenting skills and household budgeting so they can be self-sufficient.

Williams now is working as a women’s advocate at iFit’s women’s shelter and is studying at Bethel College. She said at the home dedication that the support she’s gotten over the last couple of years from iFit, from Habitat, from friends and family members and from her church, New Beginnings United Worship Center, has been an incredible blessing.

McArthur credited Williams and her family for all the steps they’ve taken to reach the point where they have a home of their own, including participating in building the house.

“Man, those were some big, big steps,” he said.

Doty and Williams had tears in their eyes as Doty talked at the home dedication about the progress Williams has made.

“I’m so proud of her,” Doty said as she and Williams stood side by side, each with an arm around the other.