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More than 20 years ago, Sekea Murray was an avid volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Philadelphia while she was in high school, helping families achieve their dreams of becoming homeowners.
Now in 2021, Murray is one of those people getting her first home in Middletown.
“I did not think in a million years that I would be here,” the five-year Newark resident said.
Sekea Murray will be one of four residents moving into townhouses on Lake Street, as part of New Castle County Habitat’s latest Middletown project “Grace Point II,” which broke ground in July. Three families were picked for homes last year, but Murray was the last one to be selected for the homes out of more than 400 applicants.
The soon-to-be-homeowner has been living with her sister in Newark, but she is ready to live on her own.
“Living with other people is great, and I am in a great situation where I am now, but for me, this is where my life is going to start. Having a home is freedom, independence, and being able to help others gain that independence,” she said.
Murray will live by herself in the two-bedroom townhouse.
Kevin Smith, chief executive officer of NCC Habitat, said her mortgage will likely be about $650 a month, including taxes and insurance. The average monthly rent of an apartment in the MOT area is nearly double, which is about $1,200.
“It’s really gratifying working with someone like Sekea who is already working so hard and just looking for an opportunity to buy her first house. As we get to know her, you can see she has enthusiasm,” he said.
Since 2000, Habitat has built 32 homes in the Middletown area, and Grace Point II will make it 36. Many have been on or near Lake Street.
“For us, we like to make commitments to particular areas where we will increase the amount of homeowners we put in a neighborhood because we believe that creates better neighborhoods, safer neighborhoods, and a better quality of life for everybody who lives there, not just Habitat homeowners,” Smith said.
Now that she has found her future home, she wants to help others gain the same independence she has found, by serving as an ambassador for Habitat NCC to recruit more people to apply for homes.
“I didn’t think I would be here, so I know there are a lot of people out there who don’t think they can get here,” she said.
Smith said it is a common misconception that Habitat homes are only for families, but he said anyone who meets the income qualifications can apply.
“That could mean somebody who is 18, or somebody who is 80. It could mean a single person, or someone with children, or two parents, or one parent. We don’t discriminate in terms of our housing,” Smith said.
Smith said there is a “severe” shortage of affordable housing in Delaware, estimating that 20,000 more units are needed.
Anjenee Cannon is a public ally for Public Allies Delaware and was recently placed with Habitat NCC. After interviewing Murray, who works in the human resources department for Autism Delaware, she could see the love the Philadelphia native has for serving.
“It’s actually really great that we are able to offer a helping hand because she has a helping heart,” she said. “But that was the biggest impression was her love for helping others.”