Jamie Wood has been in the business of making dreams of home ownership come true for many in her community for more than a decade. It is a job for which she has displayed resolution and fortitude.
Wood has been described as a person who works with continuous energy and determination as head of Edisto Habitat for Humanity, a longstanding Christian housing ministry that began its work in Orangeburg in 1991.
Armed with an arsenal of volunteers -- the lifeblood of the ministry -- Wood has guided the individuals' talents in a positive direction so that the ministry's mission continues to be met.
It is her firmness of character and indomitable spirit that has earned her designation as the example of grit as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
Wood was more than a little embarrassed by the honor that recognizes her leadership.
"I don't feel deserving because I have so many wonderful people on the Habitat team that have supported me and encouraged me along the way," she said. "I feel like the whole organization deserves the award more than me."
To be eligible for a Habitat home, families must meet certain criteria, including having good work and credit history. Families are chosen by a subcommittee based on level of need, willingness to become partners in the program and ability to repay a 25-year, no-interest mortgage.
Qualified families are also required to put in 350 hours of what is called “sweat equity” toward the building of their home, and they must participate in budgeting classes and attend home ownership classes on a monthly basis.
Wood said guiding volunteers in the work she considers a labor of love takes grit.
"It means to have a strong will to endure and to persevere regardless of the situation and any setbacks we may encounter along the way. God surprises me on a regular basis in the way he makes things work out," she said. "I might have one vision about a project and then he shows me a completely different way, and it is always so much better than anything I could some up with."
The Orangeburg resident has served as executive director of the EHFH for more than 15 years.
"I have loved this job every day, and that is because it hasn't felt like work or drudgery. It has been a joy to serve the 76 families in Orangeburg that we have constructed homes for," Wood said.
"There were 18 families in Habitat homes when I took this position. The Habitat homeowners have brought me so much joy! Every day at Habitat is different, and that is another reason I have loved this position."
She added, "I get the privilege of working with amazing volunteers, donors, staff and partner families. They all bring something different to the organization, and it truly feels like a family."
Wood guides a busy personal life with just as much grit as she does as the head of EHFH.
"My personal life, along with my professional life, is extremely busy these days, but all of the busyness is a good busy. Like anyone else, I have gone through some difficult times in life, but God has continued to bless me in so many unexpected ways," she said.
Wood said she'd just like to be remembered as a person who tried but was not interested in receiving a boatload of accolades.
"'I have tried to do the right things along the way. We all fail and fall short, but our God is faithful, knows our hearts and never lets go of us," she said.
Local Habitat for Humanity founder Michael Salley, EHFH volunteer Betty Stone and late EHFH volunteer Buddy Hawkins were on the Edisto Habitat board when Wood became executive director and all served as mentors in her life, Wood said.
"Mr. Salley was an inspiration to me. He has worked on every Habitat home in Orangeburg as a volunteer and has always done everything with the sweetest spirit. I have always felt I wanted to do a good job because I didn't want to let him down," she said.
"We jokingly call Betty Stone 'chief' because at 87, she can still outwork me on any given day. She is one of the strongest people I have ever known. She is no-nonsense and doesn't mind letting me know if she thinks we are getting off track in any way."
She said Watkins helped prepare her in her role as executive director.
"I always knew to be prepared for Mr. Buddy's hard questions. He wasn't one to hand out a lot of compliments but shortly before he died, I got a 'well done' from him on one of my visits to see him. I will never forget that," Wood said. "It meant so much coming from him, and he's another one I never wanted to let down."
Wood says she tries to instill good character in her own children, teaching them to never give up.
"God always has a plan and if we are patient, he will reveal it. I also hope my daughter, Sarah Paige, and my stepson, Carson, see me doing a job that I love," Wood said. "They are both seniors in high school, and my prayer for them would be that they would find a profession one day that they love as much as I have loved working for Edisto Habitat for Humanity."
The executive director said she appreciates the work of the OCCOC in promoting character within the community.
"There are so many negative things going on in the world, so it is really nice to focus on things that are positive in our community. I have lived in Orangeburg all my life. It is a great community that has so much potential," Wood said.
"It has shaped me in many ways, and I hope one day when I retire that I have time to volunteer and give back to a community that has been so good to me all of my life."
Edisto Habitat for Humanity has opened a new office at 1035 Windsor St. in Orangeburg, but its Homestore remains at 260 John C. Calhoun Drive and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Homestore can be reached at 803-539-2242, and the office can be reached at 803-536-2300. Individuals interested in applying for a home, donating, or finding out more about the organization can visit the website: www.edistohabitatforhumanity.org.
Edisto Habitat for Humanity director's 'grit' recognized by OCCOC
March 2, 2017 Times and Democrat article (reprinted with permission)
Article by DIONNE GLEATON T&D Staff Writer