Charlotte Manley grew up in a one-bedroom home in Bryan, the oldest of ten kids. She speaks fondly of her loving parents and remains close to her nine siblings, all who still live in Bryan.
Now a grandmother of nine, Charlotte’s own two children are grown: a son who lives in Houston and a daughter who lives in Cibolo. Charlotte has worked for BISD for 22 years and is now a cook at Ben Milam Elementary. In the evenings she works at Fargo’s Pit BBQ.
Charlotte lives in an apartment with her granddaughter Brenasha. When Brenasha’s family moved from Bryan to Cibolo a couple years ago, she asked her grandmother if she could stay with her in Bryan and finish high school with her friends. Now a senior, Brenasha plans to continue living with Charlotte after she graduates from Bryan High School and starts college at Blinn. But it won’t be in a crowded apartment anymore. It will be in a Habitat home.
“I’ve been asking God for a house since I was 18,” Charlotte said. But until now, she admitted, “I wasn’t ready.”
Part of the problem was that homeownership scared her. Horror stories from others and the thought of taxes made her nervous. But part of it was also that she was “stuck in a bad circle,” hanging around with the wrong people. “A lot of people let me down, and I was letting myself down.”
But all that changed in 2010 when she decided to give God a “total try.”
“I had a little sit-down talk with him,” Charlotte said of giving her life to God. “I said I’m going to turn my life completely over to you… I started doing things right, and thinking right, and talking right, and living right, and trusting only him.”
Since then, life has changed dramatically. “Every time I turn around God is opening up a door. It’s mind-blowing… I’m shocked. I’m amazed.”
Charlotte’s daughter had encouraged her to apply for a Habitat home in the past, but Charlotte never really took the advice seriously. But after re-committing to God, she started praying about owning a home and talked with her pastor about it. After she applied and was accepted into the Habitat program, she knew it was confirmation from God that it’s time.
But getting qualified for homeownership has taken discipline and sacrifice. Charlotte used to have bad credit, but has made a commitment to be more fiscally responsible. She now forgoes things like getting her hair done and doesn’t buy new dresses. “I want to go into my new house debt free… It’s happening. I’m doing it!”
Qualifying for a Habitat home also requires 500 sweat equity hours – hours spent helping other families build their homes and then building her own. Since Charlotte works two jobs, finding time to do sweat equity hours can be difficult. But she is undaunted.
“You have to be really determined,” she said. “How bad do you want it? How much sacrificing are you willing to do for it. You sacrifice for other little stuff that’s not important. Why can’t you sacrifice for this? If you’ll make one step, God will make two. This is my goal. This is my dream. So I don’t mind sacrificing.”
See pictures from Charlotte Manley’s wall raising on Facebook.