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Gwendolyn Smith, known as Ms. Gwen around the Habitat office, was born, and raised in Greenville. When she was young, she lived in an apartment building in Nicholtown right across from the new Habitat at Heritage Hills, 29 home neighborhood, where her home will be.

Her family had always grown up in apartments, rental homes, and eventually HUD housing. Home was never permanent, but Ms. Gwen said it was always, “a house full of love. We didn’t have a house full of means but it was full of love.”

As she reflected on growing up in Nicholtown she said, “there are new apartments now, it used to be called Fieldcrest… then it was Jesse Jackson Townhomes and now it has another name. Several of my elementary years were right there so it’s like full circle. We used to walk through the woods to Nicholtown Elementary school… It’s the side of town that I know that I feel at home.”

Gwen started work after high school for a manufacturing company during the 70s but when textiles were moving out of the south she was laid off. She then pursued a course at Greenville Tech as a medical secretary, a job she had always wanted. This led to her working for the first dialysis clinic in Greenville for 15 years until moving to California. After retirement she chose to move back to Greenville. 

In Greenville she found that it was not affordable to live as a senior on retirement  

alone. She said that “I find myself being backed into a corner, where I didn’t qualify for Senior Housing because of income but when you retire and no longer have [medical] coverage through your job,” the cost of prescriptions becomes unmanageable. She was growing concerned with rising rental costs and how she would continue to pay for prescriptions due to her medical situation until she heard about Habitat. 


After applying and being accepted, she found a way to do her sweat equity hours through clerical work in the office. She said, “I think the sweat equity part of [the program] inspires us, it lets us know that I’m not just a receiver but I’m helping. When I enter these waivers that show the volunteers coming in then I’m helping to be supportive of what [Habitat] is doing to help me.” 

Homeownership for Gwen is a blessing and is about being a part of community that cares for each other. In her words, “we are not an island we don’t lift ourselves.” She looks for every way she can to serve her new community. She drives through Nicholtown praying for prospective homeowners, volunteers, and the workers, saying, “that’s a part of my sweat equity, that I pray.” 

She looks forward to being able to sit on her very own porch, re-paint a plant stand she got from the ReStore, read a good book, and wave to her neighbors.

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