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Building a home

Kimberly Brown viewed Big Momma's death as another one of life's bumps.

On a hectic schedule, Brown juggles work, raising four kids as a single mom and fulfilling her volunteer requirements for a Habitat for Humanity home.

And the Pompano Beach resident isn't about to give up.

Brown, 35, is on her way to becoming a first-time homeowner, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Broward. The Herald is chronicling her journey in an occasional series.

Her great-grandmother, Dostie Walden, who was known as "Big Momma, " helped care for Brown and her siblings before Walden moved to Millen, Ga. Big Momma died April 10 at age 93.

But Brown doesn't, can't dwell on the death: "I don't think about it, " she said. On a recent Friday, she and family members, including her children, packed into six vans and headed to Georgia for Walden's funeral.

Brown didn't attend the actual service. She hates funerals. But she wanted to be there, where Big Momma was.Instead she took photos of Big Momma in the casket at the viewing for a scrapbook.

Brown's life revolves around her children, church - Fort Lauderdale's Revival Faith Center Ministries - and her job as a clerk at the Broward County Main Library. In between, she has to complete 500 hours of "sweat equity" before she can move into her new home.

"It's not easy, " said Brown, who has lived in a rented three-bedroom home that the Broward County Housing Authority subsidizes for the past five years with her kids - Alicia, 17, Steanna, 15, Major, 8, and Tyler, 5.

Habitat will help her buy the home with donations, volunteer labor and an interest-free mortgage. The journey takes more than a year."It might take a little longer, but I know I can do it, " Brown said.

Things have been so frantic that she missed a required monthly workshop last week on home maintenance. But Habitat does the workshops at least twice a year, said Antoinette Johnson, Brown's mentor or "nurture partner."

"It just slipped my mind, " said Brown, who has more than 115 hours completed.

"She has been working hard, " said Johnson, who moved into her three-bedroom Habitat home in Fort Lauderdale four years ago.

In February, Brown started her volunteer work at the Habitat Re-store in Fort Lauderdale, generally every other Saturday, arriving when it opens. She and other volunteers have unloaded headboards, bed frames and other items from a truck.

The work was grueling but jokes kept it light.

On several occasions, Brown left work in the evening and volunteered until midnight at the Habitat store.She and Alicia did landscaping work on a fellow Habitat homeowner's home on Saturday in Pompano Beach. Eventually, Brown will end up volunteering at her own home. Work colleagues and church members have pledged volunteer hours on her behalf.

"When you can juggle stuff around to do your hours, that shows that you're really serious about what you're trying to do, " Johnson said.

Last summer, Brown stood in line with hundreds of other applicants at Fort Lauderdale's Mizell Cultural Center, hoping to qualify. She made it based on her need, living conditions, income and willingness to partner with Habitat. Future homeowners must must earn 50 percent or less of Broward's median income - which is close to $60,000.

Brown is eligible for a three- or four-bedroom home that she can purchase for $70,000. Donations from corporations, organizations and sponsors help purchase materials. The labor is volunteer.

In a Broward housing market where the median price of a single-family home has climbed above $300,000, according to the Florida Association of Realtors, that price is a steal.

For the first year of her mortgage, Brown has to have $1,500 in a Habitat account to pay taxes and insurance. She has deposited $1,000 and has been buying things for her new home like a new crock pot and a 20-piece dish set.

She has even thought about the housewarming party and dog that she wants to get.

Beyond that, Brown has to carve out time to spend with her children.

Brown spent the day with them at the Sawgrass Mills mall one Sunday after church. On Easter weekend, she took her kids, a cousin and two nieces to a Davie amusement attraction.

"I don't want them to think my life is so busy that I don't have any interest in them, " Brown said.

THE JOURNEY TO HOMEOWNERSHIP: KIMBERLY BROWN'S PROGRESS

* Required: 500 volunteer hours. Completed: more than 115. * Required: Three Saturdays a month working on requirements. On track. * Required: Deposit $125 a month into a Habitat account, up to $1,500, to pay taxes and insurance for the first year of her mortgage. Completed: $1,000 deposited. * Required: Attend monthly workshops on topics such as how a mortgage works. Completed: Orientation class on Jan. 17 and review class on Feb. 21. * Missed: Preventive healthcare class on March 21 due to an uncle's death and home maintenance class on April 18 after great-grandmother's death.

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