Stephen Johns perseveres to complete project


From left, Dover Commissioners Matt Lindell, Fred Neil, Mayor Robin Christiansen, Dr. Rev. R.J. Chandler and Stephen Johns with his children Aaliyah, 8, and Mekell, 4, during a Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity celebration in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Stephen Johns is the first to admit it.

He didn’t think he had enough perseverance to make it through the building process that he signed up for with Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity.

However, when Mr. Johns cut the red ribbon on his new house at 21 N. Kirkwood St., on Tuesday afternoon, he finally reached the finish line of new home ownership.

His tireless work over the past year ensured that this will be one special Christmas for him and his 8-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and 4-year-old son, Mekell.

“I’m extremely excited. This is life-changing for me,” Mr. Johns said. “I know one thing, Christmas for my family is going to be big this year – really big.

“First, I want thank God for this. This has been an amazing and tremendous opportunity for me to start a stable living environment for my children, for my family, so I want to thank God for this.”

Dan Simpson, executive director for Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity, said he spent more time with Mr. Johns than he had working with any previous potential homeowner.

“It requires a great deal of personal investment to make this happen in time,” Mr. Simpson said. “Mr. Johns balanced being a wonderful father and a hard-working employee with 250 hours of volunteerism on this project and in our ReStore, as well as in classrooms learning the things that he needs to learn to make sure that he was set up for success.

“We say often this is a hand-up, not a hand-out, and it is not an easy road. It’s not a gimme and you earn it.”

Mr. Simpson said that Mr. Johns’ new house was the 52nd built overall by the CDHFH and he believed it was the 40th home built by the organization inside the city of Dover.

The Johns family home, a two-story, light-blue house, is the first of three homes scheduled to be built on North Kirkwood Street.

The Rev. Dr. R.J. Chandler started and ended Tuesday’s new home dedication with prayers asking for protection over the family, their new house and the community.

Stephen Johns cuts the ribbon of his new home with his children Aaliyah, 8, and Mekell, 4, during a Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity celebration in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, with City Councilmen Fred Neil and Matt Lindell by his side, said every new home that is built makes things a little bit brighter for the downtown area.

“The city of Dover, Habitat and NCALL have all made a commitment to revitalize the downtown Dover area,” Mayor Christiansen said. “It’s important that we make this a home for everyone to live in, a safe community and a safe neighborhood.

“Habitat continues to step forward with their 40-plus homes to make downtown Dover one of the revitalized areas in our community. I commend them for their efforts.”

For Mr. Johns, it was the fulfillment of a dream that he wasn’t sure he would be able to complete.

The Johns family was selected into the CDHFH program in November 2016, with construction on their home beginning last spring.

Mr. Johns found building a house and volunteering his time to be exhausting as he also tried to balance raising his two children while working full-time in the culinary field at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.

It was almost too much for him.

“I really want to thank Habitat because it means a lot to me for them putting up with me,” he said. “At one point I wanted to give up. I did not want to complete this process because it was just too much – my job required way too much from me. Having a career in culinary … it’s a demanding industry.

“I wanted to give up but I’m grateful to Habitat for putting up with me and encouraging me to push forward and see it to the end. I don’t regret it at all.

“When I first came to Habitat it was about two years ago and I didn’t want to see it through. I just wanted to see what would happen out of it and you know, they saw my embarrassing credit score and I just didn’t have any hope at all, but they gave me hope and they let me know that it can be done — it’s possible.”

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