Putnam welcomes first Habitat home

(Original publication: October 24, 2004)

From the pink and beige walls to the sparkling kitchen to the large wooden deck and leafy back yard, the new home at 40 Homestead Road in Lake Carmel is a dream come true for the Galvez family.

Yesterday at a dedication ceremony, the family thanked Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit organization that built the home, and the community volunteers who helped with the project. It was the first Habitat home to open in Putnam County.

Gonzalo and Irma Galvez and their children, Jacqueline, 8, and Janeth, 5, will move into the two-bedroom house officially next week. Yesterday, community members brought them dolls, plants, pumpkins and other gifts, and local clergy prayed over and blessed the house.

"It's better to live in a house," said Gonzalo Galvez, who now lives in an apartment in Brewster and works in tree care. "In the apartment, the kids can't go out to play. Now there's room."

Habitat for Humanity of Putnam County, an organization devoted to providing affordable housing, broke ground in August of last year on the property, where a dilapidated, vacant house once stood.

The county donated the land, and throughout the year, more than 70 volunteers helped by raising funds, doing office work, hammering nails, laying tiles and performing other tasks.

But first, Habitat had to convince residents that the project would help, not hurt, the community.

There were misconceptions that Habitat gives away homes to the homeless, or that the new homes would hurt property values, said the Rev. Larry Maxwell, pastor of Patterson Baptist Church and one of the founders of Habitat's Putnam chapter.

In fact, he said, a family must have lived and worked in the county for at least two years to be able to apply for and receive a low-cost mortgage for the home. Habitat homes, he said, are modeled to fit into their surrounding neighborhoods.

Now that the first seed has been planted, the Habitat volunteers said, they would like to be able to provide another home soon.

"Hopefully, people will see this as the blueprint for what can be done," said Dave Dilapi, vice president of Habitat's Putnam chapter.

For Gonzalo Galvez, who has cared for trees for people across Putnam for the past decade, it will be a treat to trim his own trees and plant his own gardens.

Yesterday, he and his wife peered out into the back yard and envisioned plants, flowers ­ and a dog. Once they finish packing, they said, they'll start looking for one.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005