Henry Wills is 54 years old and has never had a home of his own.
The lot on Van Natta Lane is between two recently finished Habitat homes. Eager as he is to move in, Wills must wait until October. His is one of 15 homes to be built in an area where an apartment complex once stood, all to be finished during the week of Oct. 5-11 as part of the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.
“Each year, President and Mrs. Carter give a week of their time to help Habitat for Humanity build and repair homes,” said Kristin Welsh, a Habitat spokeswoman.
The Carters will be in Fort Worth on Oct. 6-7, leading thousands of volunteers across North Texas in the 31st annual effort to build and repair homes for people who lack the means to do it themselves, Welsh said. Volunteers will paint 50 Fort Worth homes as part of the Cowtown Brush Up program.
Wills, an employee of Fort Worth Lumber Co., will work with Habitat volunteers beginning next month to pour his foundation and put up walls, said Trinity Habitat Executive Director Gage Yager.
“Most of the volunteers are local people who come out with their churches or corporations to build Habitat homes,” Yager said.
The finish work will wait for the big push next fall, Welsh said.
“It has to do with funding and the availability of volunteers,” Welsh said. “When the volunteers come in October, some homes will already have the walls up, some will just need roofs, some will just need interiors.”
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price will be one of the October volunteers. “I’m helping build three of the homes,” she said. “It’s fun stuff.”
Since Trinity Habitat finished its first house in about 1990, almost 520 new homes have been built in Tarrant, Johnson, Parker and Wise counties, Yager said. Volunteers have also refreshed 815 existing homes.
“Just west of [Wills’ lot] there are another 10 or 12 lots where the rest of the build will be,” Yager said. “That whole area was apartments that went into disrepair and were torn down.”
In 2000 and 2001, Fort Worth took possession of properties on Van Natta Lane, Greenlee Street and Emily Drive that were left vacant when three adjacent apartment complexes were demolished 10 years before, city spokesman Bill Begley said.
Price said it makes sense for Fort Worth to partner with groups such as Habitat to replace empty lots and dilapidated structures with new homes, a process called infilling.
“It’s critically important,” Price said. “The Meadowbrook neighborhood is an area that we’re striving to reclaim. As cities age, they have to maintain their cores, and infilling is the way we do that.”
Wills likes being part of the reclamation.
Born in rural Brazos County, he grew up in Fort Worth’s housing projects and has always lived in apartments. He and his wife, Jackie, have been married for two years, and they kept applying for about that long before being approved for a Habitat home.
“We were determined to own a home,” Wills said. “Habitat is a foundation that makes dreams come true for people like us. Once you begin to partner with Habitat, you fall in love with Habitat.”
Price, City Manager Tom Higgins and Yager were all at the site for the groundbreaking Tuesday.