Habitat for Humanity in Nassau County helped make the American Dream a reality for a local family this week, when the non-profit organization dedicated a new house built by their volunteers in New Cassel.
Pamela Douglas (center), shown with her daughter Quannesha, 10, and son Kevin, 7, thanks Habitat for Humanity volunteers and contributors during the dedication of her new home on Prospect Avenue and Bond Street in New Cassel. Also pictured are Phyllis Gipson, vice-president of Habitat for Humanity (second right) and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (right).
In a ceremony Sunday morning, the keys to the new home, located on the corner of Prospect Avenue and Bond Street, were handed to Pamela Douglas, a local mother of two. Pam will reside there with her daughter Quannesha, 10, and son Kevin, 7.
Douglas, who is currently renting a single-family house, is ecstatic about owning a home, an opportunity she never thought possible before being chosen by Habitat for Humanity for the New Cassel house. "I'm very excited," she said at Sunday's ceremony. "It's something that I never thought would come true. And I'm glad that it did."
Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide organization that makes affordable housing available in low-income communities by using donated materials and volunteers to build new homes. The organization's Family Selection Committee chooses a disadvantaged family to purchase the home, at cost, from a pool of candidates. Habitat for Humanity then provides the family with a no-down-payment, no-interest, 15-year mortgage to pay for the home. The family also pitches in to help construct their house.
The New Cassel project was sponsored by Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, as part of a pledge by members of Congress in 1998 to promote the construction of a Habitat house in every district. Her role was to encourage donations for the project. McCarthy, who was present for the dedication of the property in 1998, and again for the groundbreaking in 1999, presented the house keys to the Douglas Family at Sunday's ceremony. "This is the house that Congress built," she said. "This is a house that the community built. This is a house that people built. This is a house that brought everyone together to make someone's life better."
Kay McKiernan, president of Habitat for Humanity in Nassau County, thanked McCarthy for her sponsorship, as well as the Town of North Hempstead for assistance in obtaining the property. She also thanked the project's many financial contributors, including Freddie Mac, which provided a $40,000 grant. In addition, McKiernan expressed gratitude to the over 200 volunteers from throughout Nassau County who rolled up their sleeves and provided free labor.
This is the fourth home built by Habitat for Humanity in Nassau County, since the local chapter was established in 1992. The organization wants to have built 10 houses in time for its 10th anniversary in the year 2001, but this is a difficult task, due to the high cost and scarcity of land in the county, according to McKiernan. "Our immediate need is land," she said, urging government and business leaders to step forward and help the organization meet that need.
The organization builds many more houses per year in developing countries, where land is cheaper. For example, in some poor Latin American communities, the organization is building homes for only a few thousand dollars each. The average cost of building a Habitat home in Nassau County is about $72,000.
Next on the agenda for Habitat for Humanity in Nassau County is the construction of two or three homes in the Village of Hempstead, noted McKiernan. The organization has obtained land for the dwellings, and hopes to begin construction in the spring.
Meanwhile, Habitat is still putting the finishing touches on the New Cassel house, such as the lawn and driveway. As the Douglas family prepares to move into their new home, Pamela can be expected to remain an enthusiastic supporter of the Habitat for Humanity mission. "It helps families, like mine, who never thought they could own a home," she said, "especially in New York, where everything is so expensive."