Morris Habitat for Humanity commemorated 35 years of building homes, communities and hope with a celebration at its headquarters in Randolph on October 22. Joined by local elected officials, donors, volunteers, Habitat homeowners and friends, the nonprofit organization reflected on its successes and shared plans for the future.
“This is a glorious day to bring the community together to celebrate 35 years of providing safe, decent and affordable housing for local families in need,” said CEO Blair Schleicher Wilson. “But we build more than just homes--we empower families to build brighter futures for generations to come.”
Octavia Chavis, Morris Habitat’s very first homeowner, agreed. Back in 1985, she and her husband, Willie, moved from apartment to apartment with their three young sons. Even though both held full-time jobs, home ownership was out of their reach.
“I am so grateful that Morris Habitat came into our lives,” Chavis told the crowd, as she described how her family has grown and thrived. Chavis recalled how the couple put in more than five hundred hours of sweat equity into building their home in Morristown, part of the model of partnership with homeowner families that provides a “hand up, not a handout.”
State Senator Anthony Bucco also spoke, remarking that Morris Habitat “is the perfect model for achieving the American dream of homeownership and of the community together to give families a sense of hope.” Senator Bucco and Assemblywoman Aura Dunn presented a proclamation to Morris Habitat honoring its work over 35 years.
Additionally, Steve Westhoven, President and CEO of New Jersey Natural Gas, presented Morris Habitat with a $35,000 donation.
From humble beginnings of building one or two houses a year, Morris Habitat has grown into one of the most active Habitat affiliates in New Jersey. In the last decade alone, the organization completed 74 affordable homes—and more than 100 projects are planned over the next four years.
Since 1985, Morris Habitat has served more than 600 families, built 120 local homes, and preserved another 200 homes for low-income and senior residents.
The organization has engaged more than 130,000 volunteers for its various programs. The affiliate also operates a successful ReStore home improvement outlet in Randolph that has kept 11,000 tons of reusable materials out of landfills and funded 28 homes.
According to Schleicher Wilson, these achievements have served to energize the organization. “Next summer we will be breaking ground on Morris Habitat’s largest project in the state--25 condo units, right here in Randolph.”
The project is being constructed in partnership with Randolph Township, which donated the property on Bennett Avenue. Four buildings will consist of one, two- and three-bedroom condos. There will be a community meeting room, sidewalks, bike path, outdoor picnic area and playground. The complex will be handicap accessible and meet the highest standards of energy efficiency and safety.
Randolph Mayor Christine Carey highlighted the Bennett project in her remarks: “Several years ago, we joined forces with Morris Habitat on a plan for the development of 25 housing units on the former EA Porter site on Bennet Avenue. I am happy this project is coming to fruition. I can’t wait to see the results, the new homes and the happy families and homeowners.”
For more information about Morris Habitat for Humanity, visit www.morrishabitat.org or call 973-891-1934.