Macon residents Cyril and Jean Weatherhead retired in the spring from the Warren County Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, having devoted 25 years to the volunteer organization.
However, don’t be surprised if they continue to be active in limited fashion once the COVID-19 pandemic settles.
The Weatherheads arrived in North Carolina in September 1994 from Yorkshire, England, where they were both teachers. Some of Jean’s work associates found work in Shelby.
Cyril and Jean had visited North Carolina before as part of an exchange program involving Methodist church choirs from England and the United States. They enjoyed themselves so much that they visited for three years before making the move after Jean found a teaching position at Warren County Middle School. She wound up teaching French, German and Latin before retiring.
The Weatherheads missed participating in a choir after their move to North Carolina and, in January 1995, became members of the Northeast Piedmont Chorale, which performed concerts on a regular basis in Warrenton for a number of years.
The couple quickly became involved in community activities and met Rosaleen Walsh, who told the Weatherheads about Warren County Habitat for Humanity, which incorporated as a branch in 1993. Cyril and Jean became members in 1995.
They became involved in the building of Warren County Habitat’s first houses and are included in accounts of the 1996 groundbreaking for the group’s second house. Today, a total of 12 have been constructed in the county, including four in the Northwoods site in Norlina.
Cyril recalled that in the early years, Habitat meetings were held at the Christmas House in Warrenton. The group later met at the Colonial Lodge in Warrenton, which remained its meeting site until 2019. Warren County Habitat now meets at a Littleton restaurant.
Among the members of the board of directors when the Weatherheads joined were Robin Capps, Sterling Cheston, Sheila Burt, Jim Charrier, Monika Capps, Donald Chartier, Rose Cheston, Charles Grady, LaVerne Grady, Henry Hayes, Bernard Thompson and Rosaleen Walsh.
As the years passed, board members left, but Charrier, Chartier and Hayes remained stalwarts, Cyril said. Many Habitat members would describe the Weatherheads by using the same language. They were the last of that early group to retire.
Cyril and Jean have seen many Warren County Habitat for Humanity accomplishments over the years, including the construction and dedication of all but the first local Habitat house.
For many years, Jean operated a Habitat for Humanity fundraising flea market in Warrenton. She and Cyril would arrive on site between 5:30 and 6 a.m. for each of the events. The camaraderie of the group that conducted the flea market made up for the early arrival.
Habitat also conducted an auction on the grounds of the community center in Littleton.
The Weatherheads loved participating in these fundraising activities.
In more recent years, Habitat’s fundraising efforts have shifted from the flea market and auction to its ReStore located on Highway 158 between Macon and Littleton. The store was lovingly nicknamed “Jim’s Store” in memory of Jim Charrier. Jean assisted at the store for a number of years in both receiving donated items and in the sale of items.
“It was a joy to meet people on Tuesday (when they donated items),” Jean said.
On Fridays and Saturdays when the ReStore was open for the sale of items, Jean was in charge of books, videos and discs. Patti Charrier and Ann Nelson, now deceased, were active with the store for a number of years.
The Weatherheads have seen what they described as “many good presidents” lead Warren County Habitat, including Bruce Rogers and, currently, Mike Hairston.
Cyril and Jean have seen other changes over the years. Volunteers used to do nearly all of the construction work on Habitat houses. Now, much of the work is contracted due to safety regulations.
The Weatherheads consider Habitat’s most important decision to be transforming a 4-acre lot off Walker Avenue in Norlina into the Northwoods subdivision.
While times have changed over 25 years, Warren County Habitat for Humanity’s mission has never changed — to help people obtain affordable homes and become homeowners after paying their 20-year, no-interest mortgages.
While Cyril and Jean have retired from the Habitat board, Jean hopes to return to work at the store once the COVID-19 pandemic settles, and Cyril hopes to attend meetings as time allows.
The Weatherheads don’t regret one minute of the time they have spent with Warren County Habitat for Humanity.
“We did it because we enjoyed it,” Cyril said. “We were doing something good, helping people get on the bottom rung of the (housing) ladder, whether they had never been on or had fallen off. Helping others has always been the thing.”