By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator

When Gabby Wicks and her two sons arrived at the home she had been working on through Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, she thought she was attending a dedication ceremony. Instead, the family was greeted by a swarm of people representing Habitat for Humanity; Warrick Dunn Charities’ Home for the Holidays; Aaron’s; and Catholic High School in Baton Rouge.  

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Gabby  Wicks, pictured far right, and her youngest son show their excitement as Warrick Dunn points out all of the features and furnishings of their new home. Dunn founded Home for the Holidays charity in memory of his mother, a Baton Rouge police officer who was killed in the line of duty. The charity works with Habitat for Humanity to help provide homes for those living on low income. Photos by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator

 

At a loss for words, but not a loss of tears or gratefulness, Wicks gushed with thanks and enthusiasm as she wiped away tears in front of her new home. There she stood with her sons, overwhelmed by the attention but especially overwhelmed by the place she will now refer to as “home.”  

“Thank you! Thank you all of you!” Wicks said to the Catholic High students and other volunteers who helped build the house. “You’re a part of our family and come see us!”  

Warrick Dunn, a 1993 alumnus of CHS and former NFL running back, founded “Home for the Holidays” 21 years ago in memory of his mother, a Baton Rouge police officer who was killed in the line of duty.   

“I think it’s important that I help people that are trying to help themselves, who have a similar passion that my mom had to be a homeowner,” said Dunn. “So, it makes it easier to come out and help individuals who are trying to help themselves. I am delighted to be in a position to help.”  

This is the third home that CHS has built with Habitat for Humanity, with the student body providing the funds for the initial costs then helping with the construction itself.  

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Brother Ray Hebert SC of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, joined by CHS students and CHS alumnus Warrick Dunn, blessed the house before new owner Gabby Wicks, picture far left, and her two sons took their first tour of their newly completed home.  Photos by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator 

 

“It’s one of the best things that we do because it’s such a community experience,” explained principal Lisa Harvey. “So, we raise the money one year and then we start building the next school year. So, all the kids are involved and we get to be a part of this (presentation), so it’s just a great event for all the kids.”  

“I painted a lot of walls, I painted a lot of inside closets and I did a lot of caulking and I painted a lot of shelves that are throughout the house,” said CHS student

Andrew Gunnels, who spent 16 hours working on the house and is signed up to help build another one. “It’s really cool. It was actually really awesome to see so many different people all coming together and everyone doing a little job to make something big happen.”

“It’s really special to see how much of an impact this makes on the homeowner and her family and I think it’s a great thing that Catholic High does,” said student Andrew Shea. “They’ve put in sweat equity and they also built the house along with us, so it’s like they’re joining the Catholic High family, so it’s cool.”  

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Gabby Wicks holds up the keys to her new home after signing the closing documents with George Pierson, closing attorney for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge.  

 

After Wicks was presented a $5,000 check from Warrick Dunn Charities for her down payment, Brother Ray Hebert of CHS blessed the house. Then the family was able to tour their new 3 bedroom, 1 ½ bath home that was completely furnished and stocked with food; cleaning supplies; linens; kitchen utensils and dinnerware; and, a new computer and office supplies.  

“The home is worth $76,000, with four new appliances,” said Lynn Clark, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge. “We sell it at 0% mortgage, so every month, she’ll pay her mortgage payment to Habitat which is her principal, her insurance, her property taxes and it’ll be about $400 month – a 20-year mortgage and then she’ll own the home after that.”  

“I’m so nervous – so excited,” Wicks said smiling. “It’s a dream come true.”  

Wicks, who has worked as a medical assistant at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge for the past the two years, said she and her family lived on a busy street in Plaquemine and she has wanted to own her own home for a very long time.   

She worked alongside students, faculty and staff of Catholic High raising the walls of her future home; putting on siding; decking the roof; painting; and, landscaping the home.  

“The process was awesome. I met a whole lot of people, awesome people,” Wicks said, who was able to close on the house and move in that evening. “I learned a lot of things, like how to build a house from the ground up. So, it was an awesome experience.” 

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The 3 bedroom, 1 ½ bath house was completely furnished and ready for the family to move in. Pictured are scenes from the bedrooms, dining area and living room.