First Model Home Completed, Oprah Major Donor

She had her doubts at first but now a Biloxi woman say she's a believer. Karen Parker and her six children will soon move into the first house built through the Model Home Project in East Biloxi. Dozens of volunteers helped the Parkers celebrate at Wednesday's home dedication.

"Whose room is this?" asked Karen Parker.

"Mine," her son excitedly exclaimed.

When Architecture For Humanity approached Karen Parker and told her they wanted to build her a house, the mother of six says she thought it was too good to be true.

"No, I didn't really believe it because a free house? Come on. No one gives a free house."

Oprah Winfey's Angel Network is just one of a long list of charities and volunteer groups who've given money, materials and labor to the Model Home Project. The first finished house is 1,800, worth $112,000 and if the Parker's stay there a decade it's free.

Kate Stohr of Architecture for Humanity said, "We went and we said, 'Okay, how about we set up a very flexible, forgivable 10 year loan that allows all the volunteer groups to pull that funding into one escrow account.' That way we can build more houses."

Building safer houses meant finding affordable ways to elevate them.

"This engineered foundation of this house is a little bit different," said Stohr. "We noticed that houses were turning on their foundation after the storm. A lot of the real structural damage to the houses were because they were twisted by the wind off their foundation. So we built columns, structural members that go from the total foundation all the way to the roof. It's one member and that's going to make this house a lot stronger."

Parker says the new house has restored her family's hope for the future.

"I never would have realized how much many people care. How many people around the world come together and help."

Architecture For Humanity is made of architects who donate their time and talents to projects all over the world. That group is spearheading the Model Home Project along with the East Biloxi Volunteer Coordination Center.