- Kim Borges
Answering the Call
Original Article Published on Region's Bank Blog 'Doing More Today' found here.
50 U.S. states. 70 counties. 35 million families. It’s the impact of Habitat for Humanity – an organization with 45 years of experience creating safe, affordable housing.
Regions Bank and its associates support Habitat affiliates across 15 states through donations and thousands of volunteer hours. It’s part of the bank’s commitment to supporting affordable housing and community development and as an Equal Housing Lender.
In our “Homeownership and Hope” series, we’re sharing stories from a variety of perspectives. Here, we highlight the journey of a first-time homeowner in Marion, Indiana.
Answering the Call
A dispatch operator is working toward achieving her dream of homeownership. See how a community is helping her build a stronger foundation for the future.
Zaniethia Jones sees the signs. They’re everywhere.
“Jacob is always with me,” she said.
And that brings a measure of comfort following the sudden, unexpected loss of her boyfriend, Jacob Cottrell, from a medical condition in April. He was only 31.
“I had just talked to him,” recalled Jones. “I said, ‘This can’t really be happening.’ I had known him since I was 13. We were best friends long before we started dating.”
In the fog of grief, Jones noticed clear signs of Jacob’s continued impact on people who were close to him.
The biggest? Jones’ approval as a Habitat for Humanity of Grant County homeowner in Marion, Indiana, just weeks after Jacob’s passing.
“Jacob encouraged me to apply,” Jones shared. “We prayed together over the application in the Habitat parking lot in February right before I submitted it.”
It wasn’t the first time Jones had applied.
“Zaniethia has been working with us at Habitat for some time,” said Brittany Howey, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Grant County. “She originally applied for our fifty-fourth house, but another family was qualified at that time. Becoming our fifty-fifth homeowner gave Zaniethia additional time to focus on her savings and debt payoff plan, which she executed beautifully.”
Regions Bank is a supporter of Habitat for Humanity of Grant County’s housing programs, most recently donating $2,000 in December of 2020. In addition, Amanda Blake, a Regions mortgage loan officer in Marion, serves on the nonprofit’s Family Selection Committee.
“Being able to see where a family starts with facing the need for decent housing and watching how drastically the build process changes their lives for the better is incredible,” said Blake. “Being part of Habitat is really rewarding.”
Jones returned to Marion five years ago seeking a fresh start and a more affordable place to raise her children, daughter Journee and son Jaxx, now ages 8 and 5. There, she reconnected with her church family, including Jacob.
Unfamiliar with Habitat’s approach to helping families achieve their dream of homeownership, Jones initially had reservations about the program.
“I’m not looking for a hand-out,” said Jones. “I don’t need anything for free. I’m able to work. And there are people out there who need this more than I do.”
But Jones quickly discovered the road to securing the keys to a Habitat house is anything but a free ride, with homeowners putting in 200 hours of “sweat equity” and taking financial education classes. She’s working toward completing both.
Jones is used to work in her role as a dispatch operator answering police, fire and medical calls, where she often tackles 12-hour shifts. She also works part-time at a regional retail chain.
Jones also had initial concerns about applying for her dispatch role.
“I ripped up the original application,” she said. “Then, I realized I’m perfectly capable of doing this.”
The Grant County Central Dispatch office agreed. Three years later, Jones is grateful her sense of self-confidence won out.
“Knowing I help people … that I make someone feel safe until officers get there … is a rewarding feeling,” she shared.
Jones soon realized the help she provided was returned to her by others. Especially Jacob.
“He was always doing things to surprise me, just showing up” said Jones. “He would bring me breakfast or come over and just start cleaning knowing how tired I was from work.”
Amanda Blake and the Regions Marion branch team have provided support through financial advice and guidance.
“Zaniethia shared how she wanted to be a homeowner to provide her children with a stable, safe place to grow up,” said Blake. “She’s been working so hard to save money, repair her credit, juggle being a mom and working two to three jobs at a time. Her dedication is inspiring.”
“It’s nice to go to the Regions branch and know they care about me,” said Jones. “And their support of Habitat shows they care about the community. It’s about building trust and faith with people.”
Her Dispatch Department colleagues have also pledged to help with building her home.
“Twenty percent of your build hours can be donated by other people,” said Jones. “The captain of our police department and our firefighters have offered to help. I’m so grateful.”
The entire Jones family is excited to see their home taking shape.
“The kids like to go and look … and I like to look too,” said Jones.
With the foundation and porch complete, Journee and Jaxx are already making plans.
“Journee has claimed the second bathroom as hers,” laughed Jones. “Jaxx found a tree that excites him. He wants to build a clubhouse in that tree.”
But first, the building of Jones’ house continues. She was overwhelmed by how many people attended her May 27 groundbreaking.
“My family doesn’t live here, so they weren’t able to come,” said Jones. “But members of my church family and Jacob’s friends attended. Everyone signed a beam that will be part of our house.”
Amanda Blake was there.
“Seeing Zaniethia break down in tears at the groundbreaking ceremony had everyone else in tears,” said Blake.
These are the best moments for Brittany Howey and the Habitat team.
“Zaniethia is one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever encountered,” said Howey. “We were elated for her once she was selected. And Habitat is honored to be the hand up she deserves to help her along her path to financial security.”
What would Jacob think about all of this?
Jones immediately answers. “He would say, ‘I told you it would happen. God’s got you, babe.’”
All the signs are there.