Keith Urban dedicates a Habitat for Humanity house before performing in Knoxville

Country star Urban takes time to welcome a family home

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL
Country music star Keith Urban gives a hug to JoAnn Watkins on Friday as she sits outside the new Habitat for Humanity home she will share with her daughter and grandson. The house is part of "Music Row," a Knoxville Habitat for Humanity initiative inspired and funded by the Charlie and Moll Anderson Family Foundation. Urban gave a concert at the Andersons' home last year to raise funds for Knoxville Habitat for Humanity.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, KNS/2011 // Buy this photo

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL Country music star Keith Urban gives a hug to JoAnn Watkins on Friday as she sits outside the new Habitat for Humanity home she will share with her daughter and grandson. The house is part of "Music Row," a Knoxville Habitat for Humanity initiative inspired and funded by the Charlie and Moll Anderson Family Foundation. Urban gave a concert at the Andersons' home last year to raise funds for Knoxville Habitat for Humanity.

It might seem like a country star lives a life of ease. They pull into town, play a show, stay in a nice hotel and move on in a plush tour bus.

When Keith Urban came to Knoxville for his Friday concert at Thompson-Boling Arena, he took the time to help welcome a family into their new home. Urban quietly visited the Lonsdale community Friday to hand over the keys to new homeowner Regina Olum, who has purchased a home through the Knoxville Habitat for Humanity organization. At the time she applied to be part of the program Olum said she had no idea that her home was part of the "Music Row" homes funded by the Charlie and Moll Anderson Family Foundation.

Moll Anderson, left, talks with country artist Keith Urban as they present a Habitat for Humanity home on Friday, August 12, 2011. Urban gave a concert at the Anderson's home last year to raise funds to support Knoxville Habitat for Humanity. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess, KNS/2011

Moll Anderson, left, talks with country artist Keith Urban as they present a Habitat for Humanity home on Friday, August 12, 2011. Urban gave a concert at the Anderson's home last year to raise funds to support Knoxville Habitat for Humanity. (AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL)

"I had no clue," said Olum after the event. "I was excited when he pulled up. Everybody was excited. I like Keith Urban. I've been following him for a while, so it was really an honor to have him come through my house, do my dedication and hand me the keys. It was awesome!"

Olum, her 11-year-old son Zion and mother JoAnn Watkins will live in the home. Olum's adult daughter Alexis Olum, also was at the dedication.

Knoxville couple Charlie and Moll Anderson started their organization to raise money to fund the building of Habitat homes through private concerts by country stars, and the country stars dedicate the homes to the families that buy them. Charlie Anderson is the president and CEO of Anderson Merchandisers.

Urban performed at the fundraiser in late 2010 that netted $250,000 for Knoxville Habitat for Humanity.

In a phone call on Wednesday, Urban said he was happy to have a Habitat home built in his name.

"They do great work. I'd been involved with them in the past. Charlie Anderson called me and asked if I'd be a part of it, and I felt really honored to come and be a part of it and help open the house up officially."

Olun's house on LeFlore Avenue in North Knoxville is the second of 10 homes planned for the "Music Row" project. Brooks and Dunn dedicated the first home in the project in 2010. Martina McBride performed a concert in 2009 to help fund a future home.

Anderson said it's easier to get stars to participate because Brooks and Dunn and Martina McBride have spoken so highly about the experience.

"Everybody has just walked away saying 'Wow, this is so cool,' " said Moll Anderson.

All money from the concerts goes directly to the organization in the form of a check written to Habitat to Humanity while the stars are still there.

Habitat for Humanity homes are not gifts. Participants make monthly payments on a mortgage held by Habitat for Humanity and perform 500 hours of "sweat equity," which includes weekly classes related to home ownership and budget management and physical labor on Habitat projects. The "sweat equity" acts as the buyer's down payment. Homebuyers are also prohibited from selling the homes for 20 years.

The dedications are the culmination of a lot work by both the homebuyers and the organizers.

"Standing out there and having Keith show up and hand keys to a family, it's still a bit overwhelming that it actually happens and comes together as well as it does," said Moll Anderson. "I feel lucky to be a part of it."

While the idea was to get Urban in and out as quickly as possible so he could prepare for his concert, Urban took time to visit with Olun and her family and tour the house.

Olum said it was great start to a new home.

"I'm still on a high right now — it's exciting."

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