ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) — Making the final mortgage payment on her home was a milestone she’d been reaching toward for 22 years, Stephanie Carson said.

“I was very excited,” she said. “It was hard to find words to describe how it felt.”

In April, Carson became the first Edisto Habitat for Humanity homeowner to pay off the mortgage. She moved into the house in 1991, and takes great pride in maintaining and improving it.

“We added on a deck ... and I’m thinking about renovating my kitchen,” she said.

Carson likes everything neat and clean and her adult kids, who still live at home, know it, she said. “Sometimes they want to get untidy, but they know how mom is.”

They tell her, “You don’t want it done any way, but Stephanie’s way,” Carson said.

At one time, the family lived in an apartment, and that makes her appreciate her house and take care of it all the more, she said.

Carson was approved for the house in 1990, but it took a year to build. Part of the requirements for the family getting their house was to put in a set number of hours working on it, according to Carson.

“It was something we had to do, but we were excited to do it,” she said.

“I was hammering and handling materials and toting drinks,” she said. “I helped put up walls and sheet rock. It was a challenge, but I learned a lot.”

She appreciates all the volunteers who worked so hard to build her home, including her children and other family members, Carson said. “Most of all, I thank God for it. I try to make sure God is number one.”

All these possessions really belong to Him, and He lends them to us, she said.

Carson’s home was just the beginning of Edisto Habitat’s work in Orangeburg, according to Executive Director Jamie Bozardt.

“We have completed 60 houses since 1991,” she said. “We will begin construction on two homes in the fall.”

These homes are more affordable because owners pay for them through interest-free loans, according to Bozardt.

Applicants must meet three criteria for a Habitat home, she said. They must have the ability to pay for the home and be willing to give 350 hours of their time toward building their own home or those of others.

They must also be willing to sign a 25-year, interest-free loan that will have payments of about $300 a month, which includes taxes and insurance.

Applicants also need to have a good credit rating, she said.

Those interested in applying for a Habitat home, should send their name and address and one dollar to Edisto Habitat for Humanity, P.O. Box 2489, Orangeburg SC 29116-2489.

Bozardt noted that the organization is in need of both skilled and unskilled volunteers.

The Habitat Home Store at 2489 John C. Calhoun Drive is also in constant need of volunteers, she said.

“Retirees make great volunteers,” she said. “I need people who can work during the week.”

The Home Store is also looking for donations of household items, furniture and working appliances, she said. It’s open to the public and the proceeds are used in Orangeburg.