It is amazing what people united in a common goal can accomplish and never was it more evident than this weekend. Over 400 volunteers helped build a 3 bedroom, 1 bath affordable home from slab to roof including dry wall, windows, doors, siding, electrical, plumbing and landscaping in just 2 days (a total of 19 hours!) for a local family in need. Celia Falen, the prospective homeowner, and her two children worked right alongside the volunteers doing everything from wielding a pick-axe to working on the roof.
This home, Morris Habitat’s 63rd, is possible due to the generosity of many people. Mount Olive Township donated the Lozier Road building lot after purchasing the property with its Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Additional funding came from a HUD Shop Grant and a grant from NY Life’s Foundation. Morris Habitat’s Youth United secured funding from Investor’s Bank, the Community Foundation, and Bike & Hike.
A typical Morris Habitat single family home takes nine to twelve months to build. Building materials are often donated or purchased with support from corporations, foundations and individuals. The majority of the labor is provided by volunteers. Thanks to the generosity of the “Habitat Road Trip Crazies,” a national group of volunteers who travel the country working with Habitat Affiliates building homes within a few days, it was decided that this home would be a “Blitz Build.” According to their biography, “The Crazies have developed a style over the years that combines hard work, a little sweat, some bad jokes and a few silly gags while building homes at an accelerated pace. It is a combination that helps stir up excitement, helping volunteers ‘Feel The Feeling’ – with a hammer we can change the world. The end result is that people who think they are volunteering to give to others, get much more than they have given.”
It goes without saying that the logistics of this type of accelerated build are tricky. Part of the hospitality was funded by New York Life along with donations from the parishioners of St. Jude in Budd Lake and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Flanders, Bagels Abroad, Flanders Shoprite, Enzo’s Pizza, Las Palmas de Habana and many others. Mr. John provided the porta-potties. Mt Olive Township and Habitat Patterson lent vans (and a driver) to shuttle volunteers to the building site. Dominick Bianco of Bianco Diamond Plumbing, and two technicians along with EM Electric donated their professional expertise for the entire weekend.
When the weekend arrived, the weather did not cooperate but it did not dampen the spirit of those on site. Charlie Delaney, a regular Morris Habitat Faithful construction volunteer, described the build as “organized chaos.” Tony Rini, a landscaper from Lynchburg, VA said that it was “Awesome to see so many people, everyone different, but united towards one goal.” Toby Tyler, from Morristown, summed it up by saying “This day is about introducing a new group of people to what Habitat means. It brings together diverse people. Today people from around the country are working through any cultural differences in order to build this house.”
Adding to the excitement of this event was the fact that some of the lumber milled from the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree was used to build this house. Onsite Saturday was David Rubel, the author of “The Carpenter’s Gift,” a book that tells the story of the how a little boy’s wish to have a safe, warm home comes true, by using the wood from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to build him a home. David said, “The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree brings so many people together. Millions come to see it in NYC and now this wood has brought hundreds of people here to build a home.”
Throughout the weekend the words “amazing” and “awesome” were heard over and over. At the end of their shifts volunteers went home dirty but happy and many said they would do it again! Blair Schleicher Bravo, Executive Director of Morris Habitat for Humanity said, “This build shows a true sense of the community coming together to support the mission of Morris Habitat. It is the perfect example of partnership through private, public, individuals, corporations and nonprofits coming together to help a family achieve the American dream of homeownership.”
To learn more about Morris Habitat and volunteer opportunities please visit www.morrishabitat.org or call 973-891-1934 and ask for Stephanie Buonarota.
About Morris Habitat for Humanity
Morris Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit housing agency dedicated to providing decent, affordable housing for low-income families in Morris County and the surrounding New Jersey area. Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Morris Habitat builds and rehabilitates houses in partnership with families in need. Since 1985 Morris Habitat has served 254 households though home ownership opportunities, home preservation, and international home building programs. In addition, proceeds from our ReStore, opened May 2007, have built 8 homes and diverted over 3,000 tons of useable material out of landfills. For more information about Morris Habitat call 973-891-1934 or visit www.morrishabitat.org.