Coming Full Circle

More than 25 years after receiving a Habitat for Humanity home, a TMMI team member helps return the favor

March 12, 2019
Home Sweet Home -- Elizabeth Carter-Fox pictured in front of the home she purchased (and helped build) through the Habitat for Humanity program. Nearly 20 years after buying a home through the nonprofit, she now volunteers for her local chapter. 

Elizabeth Carter-Fox, a production team leader at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, has always worked hard. But sometimes hard work isn’t enough.

In 1991, she was making $142 a week as a full-time employee at a local wiring harness plant in her hometown of Evansville, Indiana. As much as she wanted to provide for her and her young daughter, the dollars didn’t stretch far enough. Carter-Fox, a single parent, couldn’t afford a home.

“I didn’t want a handout,” Carter-Fox said. “But housing was such a stressful thing for me. I didn’t feel secure at all. I always envisioned so much more for my daughter and myself.”

Carter-Fox turned to a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The nonprofit helps families build and buy a home of their own. The application process is thorough – applicants are evaluated based on financial need, their ability to repay a mortgage through an affordable payment plan and their willingness to partner with Habitat in the future.

Carter-Fox’s application was approved, and in 1992 she was selected to receive a Habitat home. But she’d have to work for it.

“They don’t give you a home outright,” Carter-Fox said. “I think that’s a big misconception with this program. In addition to a making down payment, you have to invest sweat equity hours. Three hundred of them. Building your own house, or someone else’s. And you pay for the home, but it’s interest free. But like I said: I didn’t want a handout. I wanted a hand up.”

She got that. And so much more.

“Getting a house to call my own made me feel more secure at home and in my work,” Carter-Fox said. “Housing was no longer a constant worry. I was able to provide for my daughter and give us both a much better life.”

In 2003, Carter-Fox began working at TMMI. The financial boost and career opportunities the job provided – coupled with the peace of mind her Habitat home gave her – allowed Carter-Fox and her daughter to flourish even further.

“Working for Toyota has been such a huge relief, financially,” Carter-Fox said. “I’ve been able to do so much more for my daughter and myself. Knowing I have good insurance and good pay. I’m blessed, because I know what it’s like to make $142 a week. I have perspective. And I’m just so thankful.”
Returning the Favor -- In her role at Habitat for Humanity, Carter-Fox counsels families going through the home-buying process for the first time. She works with them on the ins and outs of budgeting and gives advice on getting through the application process.

Now, Carter-Fox is giving back to the organization that’s given her so much. She serves on Habitat for Humanity’s family selection committee. She’s also a family advocate for future Habitat homeowners – counseling them on the ins and outs of home ownership.

When Carter-Fox reflects on the journey from her time as a young, single mom struggling to make ends meet to where she is now, she’s in awe.

“I never imagined this could happen,” she said. “Owning a home was a dream that felt out of reach. I feel like I started my impossible. And it’s not impossible anymore.”

By Kristen Orsborn

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