Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on 9-home project in Bridgewater

Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on 9-home project in Bridgewater
By KARA L. RICHARDSON
Courier News
October 9, 2009

They weren’t just building houses, they were creating homes.

On Friday, officials, dignitaries and future home owners dedicated the largest-ever development in Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity’s history — nine houses that will become home for 38 people. The foundation of a home was used as a stage to talk about the importance of the organization’s work.

“Habitat has a reputation for doing the right thing. They provide affordable homes for families through the involvement of community volunteers, the sweat equity of the prospective homeowners and a support program — to make their American dream come true,” Mayor Patricia Flannery said. “I welcome the new families to Bridgewater and look forward to having you as part of our great community.”

The nine-home development is part of the organization’s push to build 27 homes in the next five years, to meet the affordable housing needs. The “More Homes, More Hope” campaign to raise an additional $3 million – on top of the organization’s existing expenses – to fuel that growth is about two-thirds complete, said Judy Lewent, campaign chair.

After dignitaries including Flannery, and honorary chairs of the campaign — former Gov. Thomas Kean, former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman — spoke, dozens of major donors and volunteers stepped on the foundation and lifted the frame of one of the home’s walls into place. It was the home of the Buniowski family, which has four children. Justyna Buniowski, the mother in the family, watched — surrounded by members of other future Habitat for Humanity homeowners — as the foundation started looking like a home.

“They just put up one of the walls of your home. I am going to cry for you,” said Latecia Troy, congratulating her soon-to-be neighbor. Troy’s home for her and her two children will be built in coming months, but she has been so excited that she has been coming to the site weekly just to watch the progress – from a stand of trees to actual homes. Troy is an administrative assistant for UPS, and for many years, owning her own home was out of reach, she said. She now lives in an apartment in Plainfield.

Troy and Sandy Saunders, who will also live in the Habitat for Humanity development, said getting the Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity call telling them they were selected was “like winning the lottery.”

“I thought it was a crank call,” Saunders said. The future homeowners are called Partner Families because they must help build the home. They must also attend classes on topics from personal finances to gardening to help them be successful homeowners.

Both Saunders and Troy have put in more than 100 hours of sweat equity – tearing down an existing home on the site to preparing the foundation for another.

“It’s hard work but when you put that key in the door, it’s worth it,” Troy said.