Myrtle Beach area Realtor issues challenge to help build homes

sjones@thesunnews.comNovember 29, 2013 

— Johnnie Greene has a challenge for everybody who’s reading this.

Get out your checkbook, write a $1 check to Grand Strand Baptist Church - Haiti Fund and mail it to the church at 350 Hospitality Lane, Myrtle Beach 29579.

“If they want to put another zero on the check,” said Greene, a Realtor at Re/Max Southern Shores’ Garden City Beach office, “that’ll be OK.”

The money will go to help build homes in Haiti, one of the most impoverished countries in the world.

Greene first heard about the effort from a mission the church has supported for 30 years and that operates a school in Haiti for 400 children. Then, at a 2012 church revival, someone said he would pay one-quarter of the costs of a home and challenged those in the congregation to match his effort. Greene, for whom giving to the less fortunate has been a lifetime path, took him up, pledging to pay $500 for her quarter.

The standards of what is a liveable home are different in Haiti than on the Grand Strand.

Two thousand dollars will put up a modest structure made of concrete blocks that has dirt floors and no electricity or running water. But it’s far better than the flimsy, scrap wood and old fabric enclosures that many Haitians call home.

“At the end of last year,” Greene said, “I just realized how many pairs of shoes can you wear?”

She decided to use money from her house sales to build one home a quarter in Haiti. Three have gone up so far, and the money is in the bank for the fourth, she said.

She says that some people ask her why she’s helping Haitians and not poor Americans. She tells them that poor Americans don’t know poor by Haitian standards.

“We don’t know what poverty is,” she said.

Greene was a mortgage banker before she retired and became a Realtor a few years ago. She learned about giving from her father, who was a Baptist minister. When her husband was alive, the two shared the love of giving and particularly liked doing it anonymously.

Greene remembers a favorite waitress who had very bad teeth. She and her husband gave the restaurant owner the money to have the waitress’s teeth fixed, and still recalls the joy she felt watching the waitress smile broadly after the work was done. The waitress had no clue who her benefactor was.

Greene said that she thinks most people don’t give more because they’re afraid they won’t have enough to last, and that they’ll have to surrender comforts to help others.

Balderdash, she says.

“It doesn’t take much,” she said. “Five dollars is a crisis if you don’t have it.”

By design, she said she gives away more than 50 percent of what she makes each year.

The reward?

Peace. Happiness. Contentment.

“Giving is a spiritual gift, and if you don’t use that gift, God will take it away from you,” Greene said. “It is a gift from God.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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