The Rev. Thomas Nixon of St. Paul AME Church introduced the families: Prince Taylor and his wife Jean Taylor, Avon Lassiter Sr., Velma Perry and Eva Carlotta Lindsay — all longtime members of the community.
“I just get to stand in the aura that you emit,” Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said, noting the kindness and love in the room. “You all are the leaders of the leaders.”
He then presented each of the homeowners with a T-shirt, a doormat and an exchange of embraces.
Kleinschmidt was followed by Bell, who prefaced her speech by admitting she was trying not to cry.
“What I don’t feel here is not seen, not appreciated and not loved,” she said holding back tears. “I love you all and appreciate the work that you do as we try to keep our community the way that it is.”
Adwoa Asare, the community development manager for Orange County’s Habitat for Humanity, thanked Jersey Mike’s, who donated the food, and Fitch Lumber & Hardware, who tinted the paint. Wells Fargo and Valspar, national sponsors of the event, donated $40 million and $60 million, respectively, as well as 2 million gallons of paint. Over 150 families nationwide were served during A Brush With Kindness Week thanks to them, said Asare.
At the end of the dedication ceremony, Prince Taylor sang “If I Can Help Somebody” by Mahalia Jackson.
“If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or a song,” he sang. “If I can show somebody how they’re traveling wrong, then my living shall not be in vain.”
A blessing closed the dedication and the crowd was asked to read the ending together: “So wherever life may take you, whatever future that fate charts, we hope this home will last forever and dwell deep within your hearts.”