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Oklahoma Bar Journal

The House the OBA Built

A Visit With the Jim Gassaway Justice House Homeowner

By Laura Wolf

To many, a house is more than just four walls: it is the stream of memories created there with family and friends. For Sharie Northington, the house she has called “home” for the past 14 years is even more special.

“Life changed when we got this house,” Ms. Northington said. “Life changed to where I felt like I should continue to strive for success, to not give up. Having someone believe in me helped me get better morals and goals in life.”

Nov. 3, 2005, was the first day that Ms. Northington and her two children, Davion (DJ) and Aubriana, were able to officially call the Jim Gassaway Justice House their “home.” DJ was 9 years old and Aubriana was 6.

“My son remembers the struggle from before,” Ms. Northington said, describing the life they left behind in their old neighborhood. “You know south Oklahoma City, it isn’t the best area. We lived on what was essentially ‘Gang Street.’ That’s what I called it. This house allowed me to break the cycle and get my kids away from that environment.”

Owning her own home allowed Ms. Northington the opportunity to set goals for herself and for her children.

“I told both of my kids they had to work hard to get a scholarship and go to college,” she said. “I told my son he had better get an athletic scholarship if he couldn’t get an academic one. Even now, my daughter gets all A’s in college.”

DJ is on track to graduate from Southeast Missouri State University in December with his degree in corporate communications. He plans to own his own business someday. Aubriana is a psychology major at OSU. She wants to help people, likely in
her own practice.

“I even got a degree myself,” Ms. Northington said proudly. “I got my degree in criminal justice. I wanted to work as a police officer, but with two small kids, that just wasn’t an option. Now I work as a docket court clerk at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.”

The house was built as a project with Habitat for Humanity of Central Oklahoma, enlisting the aid of many OBA members and staff. From planting flowers to painting walls, lawyers and judges worked alongside one another to put the pieces of the house together. Financially, donations were raised to help shoulder the cost of the home. The work put in by the OBA members was a key part of the driving force behind Ms. Northington’s success, and she is always quick to make note of that.

“If not for the kind words and encouragement, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said. “Everyone kept telling me that I could do it, to keep it up for those kids, to keep on going, so I did. I didn’t want to lose it and let everyone down after all the hard work they’d put in. Sometimes people get something like this and they take it for granted, but I wasn’t going to do that. I couldn’t do that.”

Ms. Wolf is an OBA communications specialist.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- OBJ 90 pg. 44 (November 2019)