Thursday, November the 10th was a cool and rainy fall morning, but still, a small congregation of local luminaries gathered under a Rose Rock Habitat for Humanity tent at 630 Iowa Street in Norman, Oklahoma. The crowd had convened to witness the culmination of months of work by the agency—the ribbon cutting of a home built for Brooke Bailey, and her six-year-old daughter.
Brooke was approved for a Habitat home in early 2021, but the weather and the pandemic caused delays from the very start. At some points, it didn’t seem like the new home was going to ever be completed.
Brooke said in one interview for Rose Rock Habitat, “Me and McKinley, we can’t wait. She’s asking me every day if the new house is ready.”
Indeed, even once work had started, a catastrophic hailstorm caused a contractor shortage. Because of this, rough-in plumbing that had been completed became damaged and had to be redone. There were unexpected hurdles at every stage of construction.
“Having a home would make it to where [McKinley] would be able to do her outside projects and have fun without the fear of going outside in the first place.” Brooke said that where they currently lived didn’t allow for that kind of freedom for her daughter. “She’s excited for our dog and our cat… you know, right now we don’t get to go outside and play, because we live on a main street… It’s just too scary.”
For a child like McKinley, having the opportunity to play outside is developmentally vital. Playing outside has been shown to promote curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking. According to Healthychildren.org, children who spend more time outside have improved learning outcomes; children show increased focus and reduced symptoms of ADHD.
Overall, housing insecurity in the form of falling behind on rent and moving often is associated with adverse health outcomes for both caregivers and their children. Mothers who are housing-insecure are more likely than their stably housed peers to suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Children who experience housing-insecurity may be more likely to develop chronic cardiovascular, immune, and psychiatric disorders. Stable housing, on the other hand, is associated with a broad spectrum of positive outcomes for children and families, including academic performance, employment, physical, and mental health.
“A home is security and love and happiness and family, and that’s what I want more than anything…” Brooke said, wiping tears from her eyes.
Mother and daughter embraced as the ceremony was opened with a prayer by Pastor Justin Westmoreland of Trinity Presbyterian. Randy Gardner, President and CEO of Rose Rock Habitat spoke: “The road to homeownership is not an easy one. For most people, it takes years of hard work, discipline, saving, and a little good luck, often disguised as opportunity… For some, it seems like the odds are stacked against them… That is where Habitat comes in.”
“It’s not a house, it’s a home where your family is going to grow, you’re going to make memories, you’re going to experience life. We are blessed that you’re calling Norman your home,” said the President of Norman Chamber of Commerce Scott Martin.
The red ribbon was unfurled across the patio of the house. “They’re very sharp,” Randy cautioned as he handed McKinley a pair of gigantic scissors. After a pause he went on to say, “This home is a result of amazing partnerships between Habitat, the City of Norman, dedicated contractors, friends, family, and neighbors. Today we are thrilled to dedicate this house, rather, this home, and welcome the Bailey family to a new start and a new opportunity.”
Brooke followed, “I just want to say thank you to everyone here involved. It’s a wonderful blessing. Thank you all.”
Taking McKinley’s hands in her own, they cut the ribbon to their new home.
Scott Meier of McFarlin Methodist went on to present Brooke with a Bible. Cheri Lee, Operations Director and Manager of Family Selection at Habitat handed Brooke the keys to her home. Kendra Martin, Director of ReStore Operations and Family Support supplied Brooke her House Binder, which holds warranty information, maintenance guides, and other vital information for new homeowners.
“Things are tough in the world, and I would never even be able to get to this position… without Habitat… They have blessed me.”
Special guests to the event included: Stephen Tyler Holman the Councilman of Norman Ward 7, Estela Hernandez from the office of Senator James Lankford, and Rose Rock Habitat board members and staff.