Alesia Hall wanted to make sure the job got done during the Aiken County Habitat for Humanity's Mortgage Burning Ceremony on Sunday afternoon at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center. When her husband, Michael, tried to put out the fire in the glass bowl after it had been burning for a while, she ordered him to stop.

“Don't blow that thing out; let it go,” she said while watching the flames finish turning a paper copy of their mortgage into ashes.

The Halls became the owners of the 11th locally built Habitat house in August 1995. In July of this year, the couple finished paying off the mortgage on their home, which is located in Habitat's Warren Ridge neighborhood in Warrenville.

“It's been an uphill battle,” Alesia said. “I'm glad this is done.”

Added Michael, “It's a relief.”

The Mortgage Burning Ceremony, which was held under a picnic shelter, honored the Halls and the owners of two other Habitat homes.

Fannie Mae Schoultz became the owner of the ninth local Habitat house in September 1993 and finished paying off her mortgage this year in July.

“I'm just so thankful, and I praise God,” said Schoultz, who suffers from arthritis and has back problems. “Just to get the house paid for, sometimes it was hard, and I thought the money wouldn't be there. But I kept on praying and each time it was there, so I thank God for what he's done for me.”

Pernell and Carolyn Corbett were unable to attend the Mortgage Burning Ceremony. They became the owners of the sixth local Habitat house in December 1992 and finished paying off their mortgage in August 2012.

“We're going to have many more of these burns,” said Richard Church, Habitat's executive director. “They're going to be happening more and more frequently, and we're looking forward to them.”

Aiken County's Habitat is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The organization has completed the construction of 92 homes locally and is working on its 93rd. The mortgages on seven of the houses have been paid off, according to Church.

“Burning the mortgages gives the homeowners a real sense of accomplishment, and it's a milestone in their lives,” he said. “It's also a milestone for Habitat, and we're enjoying it just as much as they are because we're beginning to see the fruit of all the years of labor. This is what it's all about. It's something that we all rejoice in.”

In addition to Church, the speakers during the Mortgage Burning Ceremony included Tony Ateca, chairman of the Habitat Family Support Committee, and Deb Kladivko, president of Habitat's Board of Directors. Dorothy Padgett performed an inspirational song.

Following the ceremony, the homeowners who burned their mortgages and the others in attendance enjoyed eating pieces of a special cake that was decorated with a house, trees, a bright green lawn and a bright blue sky.

The homeowners received certificates and pots of chrysanthemums from Habitat.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.