Laura Burnett never thought she would own her own home. In fact, it was the last thing on her mind in 1998 with two children in school and bills to pay. A single mother working as an activities assistant at a nursing home, paychecks stretched to cover necessities including rent for a shared house on Main Street in Shortsville.
Laura’s father had other ideas.
Bill Goodman, who lived not too far from his daughter in Newark, got wind of Habitat for Humanity and thought Laura was a good candidate for a home. He kept talking it up and urging her to apply to Habitat for Humanity of Ontario County. She was reluctant at first. What would she have to do? Would she qualify? How would the kids do with a move?
Her father wouldn’t let it go. “He pushed me. He kept asking, ‘Did you do anything yet?’” Laura recalled. Then, she had a meeting with a Habitat volunteer who put her mind at ease and helped her through the application process. She met with others as well and was soon on her way.
The Burnett home in Crystal Beach in Gorham was an empty lot in 1998 when the build began.
“I wasn’t that great with a hammer,” said Laura, who did plenty of other jobs to put in the sweat equity required of Habitat homeowners. She did a lot of painting and odd jobs involved in construction and finishing touches on the single-story, three-bedroom house. Her father and brothers pitched in with other volunteers.
Now, nearly two decades later, Laura is a grandmother and seasoned homeowner. She has kept up with needed home maintenance and repairs. The mortgage is nearly paid off. A cashier at the Geneva Walmart, Laura has seven grandchildren and her daughter, Brittney, enjoys helping her mom take care of the house and entertain grandkids. Mother and daughter share a number of hobbies with baking and gardening at the top of the list. They’ve decorated the house with framed family photos and flowering plant arrangements. Several hanging wind chimes will make their way outside when the weather warms up. Laura points out a kitchen table and other furnishings passed down from her mother. She is grateful for her father’s vision — and for Habitat.
“To buy a house as a single parent — it is not easy,” she said, reflecting on her journey to homeownership. Now she is in her forever home. “I could never live anywhere else,” she said. “Without Habitat, I could never have found a place like this.”