“Home is where our story begins,” reads a sign outside Cotisha Pagan’s new Myrtle Beach home.
The mother of three is now the owner of a house at 1109 Carver St. thanks to the Habitat for Humanity Home Buyer Program.
“It’s a blessing,” she said. “It took me three years, but it was well worth it.”
Habitat leaders joined Pagan’s family, volunteers and others for a dedication at the house, the 146th Habitat home in Horry County.
Having lived in the area for nearly three decades, Myrtle Beach holds a special significance for Pagan, an administrative assistant at Bluegreen Vacations.
Her father was in the military, and she became accustomed to moving frequently.
During summers, her family would visit Myrtle Beach. Her grandfather’s house was at 1109 King St., not far from where her new home is now.
“This is the heart of Myrtle Beach,” she said.
Former Habitat board member Vicki Levy presented custom quilts to the family on behalf of the Grand Strand Quilters Association.
Pagan designed the sign for her home herself through a partnership between Habitat and Board and Brush. Keys were presented to the family, and a ceremonial ribbon cutting also took place.
“They tried to put me in the country, but I didn’t want be in the country,” Pagan said as she laughed during the ceremony. “So I came back to where I grew up.”
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit that caters to families in need. While the organization aims to help these people become homeowners, it doesn’t give away houses.
The organization has three primary criteria for applicants to the home buyer program: need, ability to pay and a willingness to partner with Habitat.
Those accepted must attend monthly classes and learn about budgeting, plan to pay off debt and boost their credit while working to pay closing costs.
Adults are required to log 200 "sweat equity" hours where they built Habitat homes. Children in the family must also take classes and perform work, with the number of hours being based on a child’s age.
“For us, we really just expose the family to the tools to be successful homeowners,” Habitat for Humanity of Horry County Executive Director Carla Schuessler said. “The families do the work. It’s up to them to really take advantage of those tools.”
Those who follow the program can receive a home built by volunteers and an interest-free mortgage.
“It’s a great thing to see a family and know that their lives have been changed,” Schuessler said.
Pagan said her children — 14-year-old Carmelo Robinson, Mychala Hopkins, 8 and 2-year-old Cameron — have also been excited about moving from her apartment in Myrtle Beach into their new house. Her two oldest kids get to stay in Myrtle Beach schools and the family will live close to the new Boys and Girls Club being built.
“Now they have a yard to play in and neighbors,” Pagan said.
Another Habitat home next door to Pagan’s is set to be dedicated before Thanksgiving — with First Presbyterian Church and the Chapin Foundation both helping with construction costs of both homes as sponsors — and additional residences are planned.
Elder Teresa Green of Sandy Grove Missionary Baptist Church sang and gave a benediction closing out the ceremony, but not before sharing words from the Bible, including a passage from Proverbs.
“By wisdom a house is built and through understanding it is established,” she said. “Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”