My name is Ryan Kimbrough. I am a native New Orleanian. My grandfather and grandmother who were from Selma, AL and Washington, D.C. respectively, met in college at Xavier University. They decided to start and raise their family here in New Orleans. My mom was born during my grandfather’s last year of school. She is the oldest of her four siblings. She gave birth to me as a teenager so we lived with my grandparents and aunts and uncles. It was a house full of family. I grew up and attended school in the Gentilly area of the city. My grandfather had a pharmacy on St. Bernard and Galvez St. named after me when I was a little boy. I was a typical teen growing up. What stuck with me most was the importance of family. I always had people that loved me and a stable home.
When Hurricane Katrina hit I was working as a security guard and sharing an apartment in the lower 9th ward with my Uncle Ron(Mom’s brother) and my Dad. The aftermath caused me to be displaced to Mobile, AL for a couple months with relatives. I was able to return to the city by moving into a FEMA trailer with my mom and working two jobs to help put my life back together. There were job changes and various living arrangements for me over the next several years.
Fast forward to the birth of my first daughter, Rylee. My life as I knew it was forever changed. My focus became creating a stable environment for my family. I reached out to Habitat and started on the path to participate in the program. While on that quest along came daughter number two, Rory. The sense of urgency to create stability got even more intense. I tried to secure financing through traditional resources but didn’t meet the qualifications. I continued to do all the things Habitat asked of me. All was a small price to pay to secure a home where my children could feel safe. It took some time but all of my effort lead to finally being accepted into the Habitat program. It gave me a sense of relief despite that it was merely the beginning of my journey.
Some say there are no words to describe how this feels. It’s quite the opposite for me. I can think of many…gratitude, relief, excitement, pride, blessed, thankful, happy. Habitat has given me the opportunity to provide a place for my children to feel safe and grow. This house is much more than a structure that will keep us out of the elements. It is a sense of accomplishment for me individually. It will be a source of warmth, love and memories for my entire family. I cannot wait to tuck my girls into their own beds and read them stories. I look forward to watching them run around the backyard and simply enjoy life. This experience has reminded me of the importance of giving back. I believe sweat-equity is putting your “body” where your mouth is.