This week Tommy Back and his son Titus will have something very special to celebrate – the completion of their new Habitat for Humanity Home, funded and built by members of Rivermont Presbyterian church.
With a grown son, Tommy Back thought his child raising years were behind him, until a girlfriend said she was pregnant with his child. “I was a little old to have another kid, but I said I’d do the right thing,” he said. Tommy settled into the role of an excited expectant father, and was in the delivery room for the birth. Tommy was in for a shock. While both he and the mother were Caucasian, the child was bi-racial. The baby boy was clearly not his child biologically, but that didn’t matter to Tommy – he felt a connection to the baby and wanted to provide for his care, regardless of what others might think.
Caring for Titus would take Tommy on a journey worthy of a screen play. Titus’ mother became entangled in a criminal situation, was convicted and received a long prison sentence. Child Protective Services then stepped in and made Titus a ward of the state. While Tommy had grown to love Titus, and had been supporting him, he had no legal rights because he was not Titus’ biological father or a blood relative.
Tommy decided that what his family felt for Titus had nothing to do with biology. Knowing that Titus faced growing up in the foster care system, Tommy took action. First, he was married to Titus’s mother, the he legally adopted Titus, and then he divorced her. By taking these steps, the direction of Titus’ future was changed.
Raising Titus is truly a family affair - Tommy receives help from his mother, sister, son and even ex-wife, Darlene (mother of Tommy’s eldest son). “We just love this little guy,” says Darlene on a recent visit to the Habitat. “He is very smart,” says Tommy. “I am very proud of Titus and his work in school. He is a very good speller; he gets perfect scores on most of his tests.”
Tommy is a hard worker with a great attitude, according to volunteers from Rivermont Presbyterian Church: “He is always busy and willing to do anything to help, from unloading the truck of tools and supplies to cleaning up and reloading the truck at the end of the day. He is really excited about having a new home for he and Titus, making it a joy to work with him on the house.”
Taking care of Titus is one of the driving motivations of Tommy’s life. By entering the Habitat for Humanity program, Tommy is working to provide a home where they can be safe and sound. “We are both tickled to death,” says Tommy. “We are excited to one day have our own home, our own rooms and our own yard.”
“Rivermont Presbyterian Church has been a faithful supporter of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga over the years,” says Pete Palmer, Habitat’s executive director. “Whether through weekly service on the construction site, or in financial support of home construction, they are an important part of Habitat’s work in our community.”
Tommy’s new neighbors have something to celebrate as well – many of their homes received a “brush with faith” as students from Lee University painted, planted flowers, and did minor exterior home repairs earlier this spring. “We are grateful to Front Porch Alliance and their volunteers,” says Pete Palmer, Habitat’s executive director. “Their work made a visible impact in the surrounding community. It is a great example of the impact that can be made when organizations with similar goals work together. We hope to partner with additional groups to include similar efforts alongside future house builds.”