By: Jan Lane
When you walk into the home of sixteen-year-old Antonio Morgan, the first thing you notice are the many framed photographs, awards, and certificates on the walls. Report cards, school honors, and family milestones are all proudly on display. The Morgan family is proud of their many achievements, not least of which is their journey to becoming homeowners. The resilient head of the family, Andrea Morgan, is a single mother who worked tirelessly against the odds to create a better future for Antonio and her three other children; it all began with a vision of a safe house that they could call home.
Antonio has an illness that will require a lifetime of hospital visits and complex surgeries, a daunting prospect for anyone, especially a young person. His mobility is limited and sometimes he has to use a wheelchair. The Morgans used to live in an apartment that was so small and cramped, Andrea could not secure the type of in-home care that Antonio needed. Now, they live in a house that’s custom-built for Antonio’s needs–it is accessible, has security features, and is entirely ADA-compliant. Not only can Antonio move about his house safely and with ease, but nurses, caretakers, and family can come over, and the home still feels spacious. Antonio even has a room that he can call his own, and he has meticulously decorated it. He warmly shows guests his trophies and posters with pride. Even so, his room isn’t his favorite part of the house:
“[It’s] the backyard because I get to spend more time with my neighbors-we always laugh, play basketball, and joke around.”
Andrea’s example of hard work and Antonio’s gratitude have inspired him to want to give back. Antonio had to undergo a surgery on the entire left side of his hip and leg in November, so he created a “Pre-Surgery Bucket List”. At the top of his list was something entirely selfless: to volunteer on a Habitat construction site and help build his future neighbors’ home. DC Habitat happily accommodated his wish and even surprised him with a little Sweet Sixteen birthday party on site! As it turns out, Antonio is pretty skilled with a hammer, and he had a spectacular time working alongside our construction crew.
Having been the beneficiary of so much good will, the Morgan family is now spreading that spirit throughout their neighborhood of Ivy City. They built a garden at the back of their communal driveway, and neighbors come out to help Antonio water the plants and see what’s growing. He has a thriving patch of flowers, plants, and even pumpkins! Antonio now has a safe place to call home and a space of his own that has positively affected his schooling, his happiness, and his mother’s peace of mind.
“He feels empowered now.” says Andrea. “It’s going to get better, things aren’t always going to look down…and I couldn’t do that by myself. I’m just one and it takes an army or a village to raise a child, and Habitat is helping bridge that gap by the volunteers that come in, just by people giving their time, their energy, their resources, to go into everything it takes to build a house.”
With a house of their own, Andrea, Antonio, and his siblings can worry less about the present, and start to build a future on a stable foundation—a future filled with neighbors and family in a community that will continue to support in his efforts to give back and decide what lies ahead for him.