Habitat Windham helps families realize the dream of home ownership

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Sep. 10, 2013
Bill Briggs (left) and Kevin Farrell work on the current Habitat for Humanity - Windham Area project in Willimantic on Sept. 7. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Bill Briggs (left) and Kevin Farrell work on the current Habitat for Humanity - Windham Area project in Willimantic on Sept. 7. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Thirteen-year-old Destiny already knows what color she’ll paint her new bedroom. “Pink,” she said, indicating the deep pink sweatshirt she wore to a Sept. 7 Habitat for Humanity-Windham Area work party at her family’s new Willimantic home. Destiny’s future home is the 10th project undertaken by the local Habitat affiliate, and her family couldn’t be more excited about it.

Mom, Jeannette Quintana, beamed as she spoke of the project, setting down the wheelbarrow she’d been pushing through the yard on the quiet, tree-lined street. Dad, Adan Lopez, spoke from a ladder as he helped install the soffits on the home’s front porch. Lopez attended the work party even though he had just completed a night shift for his job at a local cable company.  He said that he’d lived at a Willimantic apartment complex for 25 years. The house would be his first real home with his family, which includes two children in addition to Destiny - 9-year-old Adan and 6-year-old Stefany.

Lopez said that he doesn’t allow his children to play outside at the apartments, because he doesn’t feel that it’s safe. Right now they watch the other children playing, through the window. “This is going to be a big experience for us,” said Lopez. “When [the children] come here, they feel free.”

“Seeing families get to make it into their own home is a big deal,” said Peter Bachiochi, who currently serves as the president of the Windham Habitat board. Bachiochi is also a professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, and advises the Habitat campus chapter there. The 13 members of the board are all volunteers, and fulfill functions such as fundraising, coordinating volunteers, providing labor at construction projects and providing family support. Other volunteers provide construction labor, and come from Eastern, UConn, local churches and other sources. “Lots of times, people get involved just by showing up at a build,” said Bachiochi. Habitat prefers volunteers who are at least 16 years old, but no skills are necessary. “We’ll show them how to do what they might need to do,” said Bachiochi.

Current Habitat board vice president Rose Farrell got involved with the organization more than 10 years ago through her employment at Pratt and Whitney.  She continues to stay involved because of how she sees the organization affecting families. “It really changes the lives of these people,” said Farrell. “Suddenly they have a home. It’s theirs. Their lives change.” She also appreciates her fellow volunteers. “When you get involved in an organization like this, you meet people with fabulous hearts,” said Farrell.

One of those people, said Farrell, is local contractor Bill Briggs. “He spends almost every Saturday at Habitat,” said Farrell. Bachiochi calls Briggs, “probably the hero of our whole group.” Briggs, working in the basement of the under-construction home, deflected the praise.

“I’ve said to people that I do it because of the mission, but I enjoy it because of the people,” said Briggs. “We all look forward to coming here on Saturday. Everyone is here because they want to be.”

Habitat for Humanity-Windham Area is a locally-run affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing organization. Habitat works in partnership with families to build and renovate decent, affordable housing. The houses then are sold to those in need at no profit and with no interest charged.

Volunteers provide most of the labor, and individual and corporate donors provide money and materials. Partner families invest 250 hours of labor into building their homes and the homes of others. Their mortgage payments go into a revolving Fund for Humanity that is used to build more houses. For more information, or to get involved, go to www.windhamhabitat.org.

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