With help from Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, family and friends dedicated the future home — the county’s 250th Habitat house — to the Blacks in honor of their service to the community.
Sylvia Black, a former professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, said she and her husband were tricked into thinking they were attending a graduation party for the son of their friend.
“We pulled in; I saw a lot of our friends and families standing there,” Sylvia Black said. “There was a sign covered up.”
When the sign was unveiled, it read “Future home of The Smith Family in honor of Sylvia and Fred Black and their unending love and service.”
“And then our children came out behind the sign,” she said. “We were totally shocked!”
The Blacks have worked to promote affordable housing in Orange County. Both have held leadership positions within Orange County Habitat for Humanity.
As a member of the board of directors, Sylvia Black helped decide to whom the house would be given, without knowing it would be given in her honor. Marty Smith, a single dad from Efland, will move into the home in the spring.
“Marty was chosen because he was determined to be someone who was certainly deserving of a house,” Sylvia Black said. “And he’s willing to do the work that is required to get a house.”
To receive a home from Habitat, a person must put in 325 “sweat equity” hours — manual labor on his or her own house and other Habitat projects.
“It’s my first home,” Smith said. “I’ve been working most of my life, and it’s a good time of my life.”
Susan Hoerger, member of the board of directors, contacted the children and Katie Thompson, associate director of development for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, to help surprise the family.
“We had this idea four years ago and initiated this plan last November,” Hoerger said. “Katie and I were talking about the perfect way to honor the Blacks. We came up with the idea of a habitat because it’s tangible.”
Though their daughter, Shana Black, lives in Illinois, she was still able to help plan the build.
“We were having phone calls with Susan every few weeks,” Shana Black said. “It was difficult because I couldn’t tell my parents that I was talking to Susan because they would wonder why.”
The goal is to raise $78,000 to build the house. Jennifer Player, development director for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, said they have raised more than half of that total.