Imagine someone knocking on your door to tell you that you have just 30 days to move out of your home - not because of anything you did, but because the owner you are renting from has lost the home to foreclosure.
Now imagine waking up one day and being barely able to stand up from the sudden onset of severe pain in your legs – and then being diagnosed with a rare congenital bone disease that waited until you were an adult to wreak havoc on your health.
That very diagnosis and the resulting treatment changed everything for Carla Keaton, who was happily working two jobs, living in her own place and the proud owner of a brand new car for the first time in her life.
Following surgery to amputate one of her legs, Carla underwent a second surgery to amputate the other leg soon after — and then there was that knock on the door.
“If it wasn’t for my faith, and the belief that God has a plan – something that He made me strong for through this whole process, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today,” Carla Keaton said. “First I lost one leg, then I lost my second leg. Next thing I knew, I didn’t have either job or my car anymore, and I was homeless. I had such a bad experience with my first leg that I looked into home healthcare while I was still in the hospital with the second leg. There were so many to choose from, and I felt the most comfortable with Christian Home Healthcare. They were wonderful on so many levels, but it was my physical therapist who asked if I had heard about Habitat for Humanity.”
Once again living with her extended family, Keaton was desperate to start the next chapter of her life when she was encouraged to attend an informational meeting for potential partner families with Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana.
“At that point I no longer had any transportation, so I asked my dad if he would take me,” she explained. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, and when I did I was really surprised there were only two other young ladies at that meeting. When I learned about the credit check, I was afraid I wouldn’t qualify with my recent history. So when they called three months later to say I was pre-approved I couldn’t believe it. Six months later, when I got the final approval for a brand new, handicap-accessible house, I was so grateful.”
According to Keaton, when you are faithful, God is faithful to you.
“When I was having my surgeries, they told me I would be in a wheelchair afterwards, that I would never walk again,” she said. “You know, as I was living my life with two legs, I always wondered why people don’t use prostheses. Now I know it’s because they hurt, they really hurt. But, I knew that I wanted to walk again. So now I have a new walk – I can’t go far, but I can get to where I want to be.”
Soon, Keaton will also have a new Habitat for Humanity home to go along with her new walk.
During construction of the home located at 635 Tyler Street in Gary, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson joined one of the work crews as they were installing the vinyl siding.
“I was very excited to learn that the mayor was actually going to be working on my house,” Keaton said. “When I found out I was like whoa! The mayor is coming to work on my house? I felt kind of special.”
Along with the fact that Habitat for Humanity houses are sold to prequalified partner families at no profit and financed with affordable, no interest loans (homeowner monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving fund that is used to build more homes), each family is required to contribute 300 hours of “sweat equity” to build their own home and to help other prospective homeowners build theirs.
In Keaton’s case, the definition of “sweat equity” was tweaked a bit, and she has spent countless hours on the phone reaching out to personally thank those who made contributions to help build a home for her family.
“I am truly blessed to have my home and to know that there are people who care,” she said. “I never could have done it without Habitat for Humanity and all the generous supporters and volunteers.”
“The response to those calls has been nothing short of amazing,” Habitat’s director of development and community relations Lisa Benko said. “When people hear firsthand how their contributions are changing the life of a local family – how three generations - Carla and her 21-year-old daughter and her 3-year-old granddaughter - will be living together, supporting each other under one roof, what we do becomes real for them. It’s so much more than providing funds for the materials to build a home, it’s building a future for a local family.”