Mayor Arnel Bolden and other volunteers helping build a house with Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Central Area and Nissan in Canton on Wednesday.
Mayor Arnel Bolden and other volunteers helping build a house with Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Central Area and Nissan in Canton on Wednesday.
CANTON - It's only 9 a.m., but the heat index has already risen above 100 degrees as master carpenter Joseph Flowers wipes the sweat from his brow and climbs the scaffolding once again in hopes of turning a shell of a house into a home.

For 13 years, Flowers has worked as a body assembly technician at Nissan Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant. Each year, he has been one of the first volunteers to add a hard hat to his work attire in order to build homes for local families through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity Mississippi Capitol Area (HFHMCA) and this year is no exception.

"Nissan has one day out of the week for us to volunteer to work on the house, but most of the time I stay with it the whole eight weeks," Flowers said. As a homeowner, he understands the impact that four safe walls and a well-built roof can have on a family.

"It's a good feeling to volunteer," Flowers said. "You're making a difference in a family's life. You're taking them out of substandard housing and putting them in something that they own. In other words, you bring them to the next level."

He finds that the most rewarding part of helping others is that they often pay it forward.

A seven-day dual build that began on Wednesday will provide two homes for Canton families.

Canton Mayor Arnel Bolden was among the volunteers who braved the summer heat to lend support to the cause.

"As the head of our great city, I'm very proud of the fact that we've had so much strong community partnership between the supporters such as Nissan and Habitat for Humanity as well as the many volunteers who have come out today to give their support on this project," Bolden said.

He was joined by city workers, Canton High School students, and many others at the event.

One of the houses will go to Mylinda Phillips, a mother of three. Phillips has spent fourteen years working at the Head Start Center in Canton making a difference in the lives of children much like her own.

"This experience has been exciting. It has been humbling. I'm so honored that so many people would come out and do this for me," Phillips said. She is looking forward to having her own yard for gardening and family visits.

The second home will go to Adrienne Manning, who spends her days as a clerical assistant at Entergy. She, too, is a mother of three.

"We are so grateful that someone saw our need and is helping us," Manning said. She explained that the zero-interest mortgage is the only way the she could afford to move her children from a rental to a true home.

A native of Canton, Manning looks forward to returning to the community where she grew up.

"Thank you for bringing us home to Canton," she said to everyone involved.

Both women look forward to the safety and stability that their families will experience for perhaps the first time.

"Nothing about this is a giveaway," said Merrill McKewen, Resource Development Director for HFHMCA. She noted that recipients were required to provide applications, attend nine hours of financial classes, and devote 250 hours of "sweat equity" or not-for-profit volunteer work to similar housing builds. In return, they receive finished houses will come complete with appliances and a zero-interest mortgage.

McKewen, who has spent 30 years doing a little bit of everything, finds this job to be more of a calling.

"This job uses every talent I've been given from fundraising to project planning," she explained. "It's an amazing thing to spend every day working for an organization where you really are able to be the hands and feet of Christ. I get up every day to do something that makes someone's life better."