PATERSON, NJ- The Paterson Museum was transformed into a workshop on a Saturday earlier this month as volunteers from across the region joined together for Paterson Habitat for Humanity’s annual “Hammering for Humanity” event. 

Several teams, including those from Abundant Life Reformed Church in Wyckoff, Caldwell United Methodist Church and the Paterson Homeowner’s Association, participated by assembling walls that will become part of Paterson Habitat’s most current home construction on Rosa Parks Blvd. The organization, according to Executive Director Barbara Dunn, has helped make 300 families homeowners in the city, and currently has 20 projects underway. 

Included in the wall is a specially purchased and personally decorated 2x4 that serves the dual purpose of helping to raise funds while also showing the volunteers aren’t just giving their labor, “they are sending wishes for a home with love,” said Dunn.

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Bruce Ciccone, a member of the Board of Directors for Paterson Habitat, and the Habitat Coordinator for Caldwell United Methodist Church, led a group of 15 students to the event and said that “it’s important to teach children the value of giving back.” 

The children, Ciccone believes, understand that they come from a vastly different background than those who the home they are helping to build will eventually be owned by, yet they realize “the need for living in safe housing, building communities, helping others and giving.” The work, along with the lessons learned from participating, are also in line with the church’s teachings which often ask “what would Jesus do?”

“Everyone deserves a home,” said Katie Cohen, a 15-year old volunteer from Wyckoff. When asked why she chose this effort to participate in she said that it “feels good to know I made a difference in someone’s life, even if I don’t know them.” Also reflecting on the lessons she learns in her church, she added that it’s important to help those that are closest because “we are all neighbors.” 

In addition to the work and funding that goes into constructing each home, and helping a family achieve home ownership, there are other challenges that continue to face the new residents, as well as Paterson Habitat, according to Dunn, including increasing property taxes and changing flood insurance requirements. Once overcome, the challenges become opportunities, with history showing that “long time home owners take ownership of their blocks,” thus helping to build stronger neighborhoods.

As one group completed their wall and moved it outside a watchful Michael Rolls, President of the Board of Directors for Paterson Habitat, gave a smile at the work that had been completed, and, perhaps thinking about the family that will eventually live inside it after investing their own time, finances and work, said “it’s about giving a hand up, not a hand out.”