While I was at the Guadalupe Town Hall on Thursday to listen to country music icon Reba McEntire make her pitch for affordable housing, someone said, “You and Reba sound alike.”
That’s ridiculous. McEntire speaks with an Okie twang, whereas I speak with a Southern drawl. But I guess such nuances of regional speech are lost on some folks. Suffice it to say, the observer figured we both sound like people who grew up drinking water out of a garden hose.
McEntire’s career is the stuff of legends, of course. Her accomplishments extend beyond country-western music to Broadway and television. She’s big time.
But she still sounds like a hick, if you don’t mind me saying.
Obviously, I don’t know what McEntire’s life is like these days. Maybe she takes champagne bubble baths and eats caviar for breakfast instead of grits.
But her speech still gives the impression of someone who, despite her worldwide acclaim, has not “got above her raisin’” as country folks say.
And that’s why McEntire’s role as an advocate for affordable housing carries the twang of truth.
McEntire was in Guadalupe to help kick off the “Whirlpool Building Blocks” project. Whirlpool is partnering with Habitat for Humanity Valley of the Sun to build nine homes in Guadalupe in five days. The building will commence on May 14 when the project partners will join 300 volunteers to build houses for folks who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a home of their own.
Unfortunately, the need has never been greater. With Arizona growing at a rate that is three times higher than the national average, the cost for housing has risen so much that more and more working people can’t afford a home.
The median price for a single-family home in the Valley ($263,000) is 24 percent higher than the national average.
And in Guadalupe, where many of the existing homes lack even the most basic of amenities, the need for decent affordable housing is reaching crisis levels.
Organizers hope that bringing in a big star like McEntire will produce the kind of exposure that inspires folks to contribute to the cause through donations of time, money or materials. Visit habitataz.org or whirlpool.com/cutserv/habitat. jsp if you’re interested.
McEntire, a longtime friend of Habitat for Humanity, said her own humble beginnings in rural Oklahoma resonate in the work of the organization.
“Being able to own a home meant everything in the world to us,” she said. “So giving people a boost toward getting a home is very special to me.”
I asked her if her star status discourages people from teasing her about her accent.
“Nope,” she said. “I still get it. But I just tell ’em that my accent has got me this far, so I guess I’ll just keep it, thank you.”
Well twanged, I say.