April 24, 2016: This year marks Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh’s 30th anniversary! Over the past 30 years, we have had the pleasure of working with countless volunteers and community partners in providing affordable homes and repairs to over 130 local partner families. For each month of 2016, we’ll be featuring a different partner family.
Teri Gilmore first found out about Habitat’s housing programs through a flier that came with her utility bill in the late 1980’s. She thought the program sounded too good to be true – an interest-free mortgage? She could not believe it, but decided to get more information. Teri was in her 20s and was living in a violence-ridden city neighborhood with her young son at the time. She was eager to move to a safer community, where she could raise her child and follow her dream of being an entrepreneur.
Habitat for Humanity’s Pittsburgh affiliate was small at that time, being only a few years old, and was run mostly by volunteers. Habitat had only completed about two other homes in Pittsburgh when Teri was selected to be a partner in the homeownership program. Keeping in line with the policy of being “hand up, not a hand out,” Habitat required homeowners to complete 400 hours of sweat equity volunteer work on their homes and other Habitat homes. Teri knew it would be challenging as a single mother to find time for her hours, but she didn’t let that stop her. In fact, Teri completed over 500 hours investing far more than was required, working on her own home and 6 other Habitat houses. “I challenged myself that I was going to do my hours to prove that I was not getting a hand out. I wanted to make sure people knew I earned it,” says Teri. “Habitat’s founder Millard Fuller used to say I’m giving you dignity, and we’re going to work through the process together. That stuck with me.”
After months of investing her sweat equity hours and with much collaboration from community volunteers, funders, and Teri’s family and friends, Teri finally received the keys to her Habitat home in Braddock in 1992. Her house was one of five Habitat homes to be dedicated in Braddock that day, and she threw a huge party at her new home to celebrate. Teri thought to herself “Lord you really did this for me,” and she spent the night dancing and enjoying the home she had helped build.
Since moving into her Habitat home, Teri has indeed pursued her dream of becoming an entrepreneur. In 1993, Teri opened her own Child Development Consulting business, which she continues to own and operate today. She has worked for numerous educational institutions including serving as Lead Teacher at the Salvation Army Child Care Center and the Eloise and Edith Christian Day School, and serving as a Director for the Braddock Borough Playground Recreation/ Education Program (PREP) and for the Braddock Family Swim and Recreation Center. Teri has earned both her Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development and Family Relations from IUP and is currently purusing a Master’s Degree in Applied Developmental Psychology from Pitt. She is a highly engaged member of her community, serving as a member of the Lions International Mon River Fleet and Hearts on Angels Wings in Braddock, and even dedicating her time as a current volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.
Teri paid off the mortgage on her Habitat home in 2014. A mortgage-shredding ceremony was held for her at the Habitat ReStore. “The Habitat program helps bring people of all races, nationalities, genders, economic situations, whatever, together. I feel blessed to have been a part of it,” says Teri.
If you'd like to donate to help Habitat provide more homes to deserving families like Teri's, please click here.