Tuesday the Rev. Billy Wade was honored for his 22-year tenure on the board of directors for the Newton County chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
After recently stepping down as the board’s president, Wade was recognized for his service by fellow board members as well as with a proclamation signed by Covington Mayor Kim Carter and Newton County Board of Commissioners Chair Kathy Morgan.
"Thousands of lives were directly or indirectly touched by his leadership and service during his many years as the president of Newton County Habitat for Humanity," Morgan read from the proclamation.
"His strength of character embodied effective volunteers," Carter read, "and his courage to challenge them moved Habitat for Humanity to a higher level."
Wade came to Covington with his young family 23 years ago when he accepted the pastor position at First Presbyterian Church. His predecessor, Bob Dunham, had helped found an organization called the Newton County Home Improvement Council, which he became involved in immediately.
Soon, the council joined with Morgan County to create a joint chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which is a non-profit organization that according to its Web site "brings families and communities in need together with volunteers and resources to build decent, affordable housing for low-income households."
During his time on the county Habitat board, Wade has witnessed the construction of 10-12 homes in the county as well as dozens of rehabilitation work on other existing homes.
"Letting people know they are going to have a house is a wonderful feeling," Wade said.
Before splitting with Morgan County, Wade remembered a woman with a family who had a home built for her. She ended up going back to school for her teaching certificate and eventually found work in that field.
He remembered being appalled by a figure quoted to his class while participating in Leadership Newton County as a new county resident. According to Wade, 23 years ago nearly 1 in 10 houses in the county did not have indoor plumbing.
"Housing affects so much," Wade said. "It affects families; it affects generations of families; it provides a place of security and care for families, especially children."
Wade said in his experience, children do better in school, married couples stay together and communities have a greater sense of pride if they have decent housing.
He added that Habitat brings people in the community together who would otherwise never have known about the other.
"It’s Habitat’s goal not just to build houses, but to build community," Wade said.
Wade said volunteering for Habitat also can be a humbling experience for those who have lived comfortably to see how less privileged residents live. He likened that experience to the Biblical parable about the rich man who never sees the beggar at the gate of his palace when he leaves for town.
"I think that’s how a lot of us live a lot of the time," Wade said.
Wade said he will continue to volunteer and advise the Habitat board, especially with the county and city looking to use Neighborhood Stabilization Program Grants, but felt it was time to step down and let some "fresh blood" facilitate the chapter’s activities. He encouraged residents to donate time, materials or money to the Newton chapter.
"We also need people to serve on the board and on committees because that’s where so much of the work needs to get done," Wade said.
For more information about the Newton chapter of Habitat for Humanity e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (770) 784-9665.