Tuscaloosa’s Habitat for Humanity Dedicates New Home for HomeFirst Family

by Dr. Elisabetta Zengaro
Communications Specialist, Division of Community Affairs

For many adults, homeownership may seem more like a dream than a possibility, but HomeFirst helps participants take steps to achieve homeownership through financial planning. For HomeFirst participant Kanika Cotton, that dream became a reality when she and her family moved into their new Habitat for Humanity home on Thursday, Aug. 11.

Cotton’s home was funded by Nick’s Kids Foundation, the official charity of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban and his wife, Terry Saban.

“Mrs. Saban wanted to keep it a surprise,” said Cotton. “I think it was in March when Susan Kasteler [Homeowner Services Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa] told me who was sponsoring me, and I was just excited because I work for UA and I’m a big Alabama fan, so it was like a two-in-one win.”

Cotton’s journey to homeownership began in February 2022 with her participation in HomeFirst. Housed in The University of Alabama’s (UA) Center for Community-Based Partnerships, HomeFirst is a financial wellness initiative that serves individuals and families on their path toward first-time homeownership or foreclosure prevention.

“What I like about HomeFirst is that it actually helped me budget better, and it helped me save, too,” said Cotton. “[HomeFirst] got me prepared for being a homeowner and knowing what to expect.”

Justin Washington, a volunteer coach with HomeFirst and instructor in the Department of Management at UA, has been helping Cotton meet her financial goals with UA HomeFirst and was at the dedication ceremony for Cotton’s new home.

“As much as I’m coaching Kanika, it also challenges me to stay sharp on my financial well-being, so when we're working through the modules, it allows me to reflect on how I’m doing in certain areas as well,” said Washington. “We’re taking this journey together.”

Cotton finished the program in the summer, just in time to move into her new home.