By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Editor Shala Carlson of “Habitat World,” the magazine of Habitat for Humanity International, said the story of Richmond Habitat homeowner Rossetta Trammel, 63, was among her favorites.
To represent 1997 in “Habitat World’s” celebration of 30 years building with President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn, Trammel was chosen to share her memories of the building of her home at 303 Douglas Court.
“That year’s build ― known throughout our organization as ‘Hammering in the Hills’― remains an impressive achievement, and we’ve happily followed the good work this affiliate continues to accomplish in Kentucky,” Carlson said.
While 50-plus houses were built during the Carter Work Project week itself, the magazine stated, the event was the catalyst for the construction of 150 new homes throughout Kentucky and Tennessee.
Trammel’s home was one of six built in Madison County in 1997, three in Richmond and three in Berea, she said outside of her home on Monday.
Hers was the 15th home built by Habitat for Humanity of Clark & Madison Counties. The affiliate dedicated its 99th home in October.
Trammel pointed out the other Habitat homes on her block that form a L-shape around her own. One home was built by only women, she said, while another house located one street over was constructed by only college students.
“I tell everyone, my house is lived-in, my house is God-given, I try to have much love in my house and my door is always open,” she said.
Trammel was the only person in her family to meet a president she said, recalling how President Carter shook her hand and went to work wherever he was needed.
“I finally shook hands with a celebrity who was doing something,” she said. “Nobody had to be a senator or a senator’s granddaughter — we’re just regular people he passed blessings along to.”
During the build, several volunteers crafted a picnic table on which everyone signed their name, including President Carter and his wife. Then Governor Paul Patton’s signature can be seen on the table as well.
To preserve the signatures, Trammel had the table shellacked and it now sits safely covered in her basement. She said she plans to bring the table out this summer for her family to enjoy.
To find ‘simple, decent, affordable housing’
When Trammel moved from Chillicothe, Ohio to Richmond in 1978, she lived with family for a while and a few other places before settling into a rental on East Main Street.
“It was a nice house with two fireplaces,” she recalled. But after the homeowner died, Trammel could not keep up with repairs and the 52-year-old home was, literally, falling down around her.
While moving her refrigerator out of the kitchen, the very last item to be placed on the moving truck, a piece of the kitchen roof “just fell right in,” she said.
She didn’t have much luck at her next place on Elm Street, where she said the floor “was falling through the ground.”
In 1990, she took over full-time care of her granddaughter Johndora, so finding a safe home was important to her, she said.
While visiting the food stamp office in the spring of 1995, Trammel’s caseworker, who knew of her housing woes, asked her if she had ever heard of Habitat for Humanity. Coincidentally, a friend who lived down the street mentioned Habitat to her later that same day.
So Trammel filled out an application for a home and forgot about it, she said. However, soon after, she received a visit from a Habitat representative who came to talk to her about her housing issues.
Months later, she got another visit from Habitat to find out if she was still interested in a home.
But it wasn’t until the fall of 1996 when she received the visit she had been waiting for.
Habitat family partner Joyce Thomas, who would serve as a mentor through the building process, told Trammel that she was approved for a Habitat home.
“We both cried and cried,” Trammel said. “I’m extremely blessed. For Habitat to choose a family before they even know them — they don’t know if you’re black, white, grey or what. It was a sheer blessing from God.”
More than 200 people from all over the country came to work on her home that week, she said.
“No one in my family was able to get here to help me build my home, but that’s okay, because God sent special angels to get this house built,” Trammel was quoted saying in the “Habitat World” feature aptly titled “1997: ‘Special angels’ in Kentucky.”
Although following a knee surgery, Trammel isn’t able to help out as much with home construction, she finds other capacities to fill as a Habitat volunteer.
Trammel has served on the family selection committee, two terms on the Board of Directors and continues to show up to help at wall-raising events and Habitat dedications.
“I still tell people about Habitat,” she said. “I tell them to put in an application, say a prayer and wait.”
For details on how to apply for a Habitat home, visit habitatmadisonclark.org.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.
A sign for ‘Hammerin’ Hills’
Five years after settling into her new home, Trammel thought it would be nice if a sign was erected to identify the block of Habitat homes off Irvine View and Douglas Court.
It was fitting that their miniature “subdivision” be called “Hammerin’ Hills” in honor of the 1997 “Hammering in the Hills” building project, she said.
A woodworker had agreed to create the sign for her, she said, but passed away before it was completed.
She would like for the sign to say: Hammerin’ Hills/Habitat for Humanity/Jimmy Carter Work Project/Richmond, Ky./Est. 1997.
Trammel said she hopes someone would be willing to donate the sign or give it to her for a good price.
“There is a lot of talent in Madison County who could help out with this,” she said. “This is something I would like to see done before I die.”
For details, contact Trammel at (859) 200-9431.