Chapel Hill resident gives Habitat house for her 50th birthday


The home buyer Brittany Peaks, with her son Zyon, gives her thanks.

Brittany Peaks is receiving the next Habitat for Humanity home in Durham, and on Saturday she met the woman who made it possible.

Her home sponsor, Dabney Grinnan, a Chapel Hill resident, raised money for the house after she made it her 50th birthday wish to sponsor a home for a family.

The two have been trying to meet for months, and Peaks was excited to share her gratitude with Grinnan in person.

“It surprises me that she gave this, and I thank her,” she said.

On Saturday, Habitat for Humanity of Durham officially dedicated the Worth Street house to Peaks and her 2-year-old son, who will move in later this month.

Don Stanger, president of the Durham branch of Habitat for Humanity, said it was the 265th home dedicated in Durham.

“This is an amazing love story,” he said.

Grinnan asked for donations from friends and family instead of birthday gifts. She and her husband Greg Ruff raised $16,000 on Facebook, and she sold her jewelry line called “Romance is in the Air” to raise money.

Grinnan said she and her husband personally donated the rest to meet the $50,000 requirement for the house.

Grinnan said she believes it is her duty to give to others. She serves on several community boards and tries to be involved with different charitable causes.

“On my tombstone, I want the quote, ‘to whom much is given, much is required,’” she said.

Roxanne Little, donor relationship manager of Durham Habitat for Humanity, said this kind of sponsorship is rare.

“Dabney’s birthday sponsorship is a first for us,” she said.

Peaks, a UNC Hospitals employee in the department of Nutrition and Food Services, said she was shocked by Grinnan’s birthday wish to sponsor a Habitat home.

When she found out she was to receive a house, she immediately started volunteering for Habitat for Humanity — a requirement for homeowners.

Peaks said she worked in the Habitat ReStore and helped build homes, including her own.

“I gave a total of 250 hours of sweat equity,” she said.

Little said many people don’t understand how Habitat for Humanity works.

“Homes aren’t given away — they’re sold at zero percent interest,” she said.

The homeowners pay a fixed mortgage based on the appraised value of the home and their take-home income, Little said.

“We believe that everyone deserves a safe home,” she said.

Grinnan, who received her undergraduate degree at Duke University and then attended UNC for graduate school, said she learned early the importance of helping others.

“I was raised to believe you can do something good all the time,” she said.

She said she decided to sponsor a home because she didn’t need any presents.

“There is nothing in the world that I need,” she said.

Peaks’ son, Zyon, thanked the participants of the dedication ceremony and said he is looking forward to moving in.

“I’m excited for my room,” he said.

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