Single mom says Habitat house is answer to prayer

KNOXVILLE (WATE) — A single mother helping raise her grandson has a new Habitat for Humanity home in Knoxville thanks to an all women building crew.

Jennie Clemmons’ home was built from the ground up in just 12 days in May. Tennessee’s First Lady, Andrea Conte, and members of the Lady Vols even joined the team one day.

Knoxville Habitat for Humanity, located at 1501 Washington Avenue, is an independent, nonprofit, Christian housing ministry that partners with people of all beliefs.

And the homeowner has traveled a long, painful road to receive a Habitat house.

Jennie’s story

Jennie now works full time manufacturing auto parts at Exedy America Corp. But she used to own a used car lot. Although it was successful, there were several robberies including one that was violent. So Jennie left self-employment in exchange for better hours and safer working conditions.

She says the new, three bedroom house is an answer to her prayers. Jennie moved from a two bedroom, one bath rental home in a crime-ridden area where she was afraid to let her seven-year-old grandson, Jamarius, play outside. Her 17-year-old daughter, Trenkeeva, also lives at home.

Jennie has two grown children, 27-year-old Reginald and 22-year-old Gennika, who live on their own in West Knoxville.

Building her dream house

She was accepted into the Habitat program in September 2004 but one requirement was learning how to help build it.

She began with a how-to clinic at Lowe’s on Clinton Highway weeks before the Women Build project. It’s just one of the many training sessions Jennie had to attend to qualify for her home. She took on the process with an enormous sense of pride and humor.

Jennie also brought her grandson and her daughter, Trenkeeva, to do their part since the home will belong to them, too.

Also among those who showed up to help are women who work with Jennie. “She does a great job with her children. She’s a hard worker and so she will give back to the community just as well as receiving,” Lula says.

One of the few men who helped train volunteers is Howard Qualls of Dewalt Industrial, who works with Jennie at Exedy. He says women are a little more receptive to construction criticism than men.

“It’s actually easier because they appreciate good instruction and advice. A lot of times, if you’ve been doing this stuff for a long time, you have your own way which may or may not be the safe way,” Qualls says.

Jennie and her family’s new home isat 1600 Cathedral Lane in the October Woods subdivision of East Knoxville. It’s the second subdivision built by Knoxville Habitat for Humanity and will have a total of 39 homes.


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