Habitat for Humanity of Putnam County is planning its next
project after completing renovations on a Lake Carmel house this fall.

(Original publication: December 10, 2004)

Gonzalo and Irma Galvez and their two young daughters moved into a two-bedroom home in Lake Carmel just over a month ago.

It was the first project completed by the new Putnam chapter of Habitat for Humanity and the culmination of four years of organizers' efforts.

As Habitat continues celebrating its success, the nonprofit housing group is planning its next initiative. Earlier this year, the organization received a donation of an 11.33-acre piece of land in Kent. The property, which houses a tiny cottage, is off Peekskill Hollow Road and was owned by Mario Rossi.

The problem is that it would need tens of thousands of dollars of excavation before someone could build on it. Since Habitat is not able to front the money, it is considering selling the land to a builder who would do the site work and then carve out a piece for Habitat's second home. Crowne Victoria Realty of Shrub Oak started listing the parcel a few weeks ago so the land could get sold that way.

"We're kind of looking at all those avenues of what to do with this piece of property," said David DiLapi, vice president of Habitat for Humanity of Putnam County.

Self-made millionaire Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda Fuller, of Georgia founded Habitat for Humanity in 1976. Since then, the ecumenical Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate substandard housing and homelessness has built more than 150,000 homes around the world. Habitat's lifeblood is volunteers, who construct and renovate housing, and donations of supplies and materials.

To be eligible for a Habitat home in the county, families must live in dilapidated or crowded housing in Putnam and pay more than half their income in rent. They perform "sweat equity" to help build their new home and receive no-interest mortgages. The mortgage proceeds go toward future Habitat houses.

Crowne Victoria Realty will forgo any commission if one of its agents sells the land for Habitat, said Toni-Ann Bromberg, an agent. The property is listed at $185,000.

"We've had some interest. There are a lot of agents that are calling on it," Bromberg said.

During the interim, Putnam Habitat wants to start a program called Brush with Kindness, which Westchester Habitat for Humanity offers. Volunteers do short-term projects, like roof repair or house additions, for needy families. Habitat members are developing criteria for who and what kind of projects will qualify, DiLapi said.

"It's a nice way to help someone and also to keep people from losing interest in Habitat," he said.

Jim Killoran, director of Habitat for Humanity of Westchester County, said Brush with Kindness has been thriving there. Among the things volunteers have been doing are a house addition for a disabled Ossining teen, painting a house for unwed mothers in New Rochelle, installing windows for a blind senior citizen, and painting a playground. Many people are "dying to do something good," he said, adding that his group has an army of about 5,000 volunteers.

"It allows us to show that we care about the whole community, which we do, where our families all live," he said.

Besides volunteers who will build houses and complete short-term home-improvement projects, Habitat needs people who will serve on its administrative committees, said Valerie DuVall, president of Putnam Habitat. They can join panels that recruit volunteers, assist with fund-raising and perform other vital tasks, she said.

Reach Cara Matthews at clmatthe@thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2277.Reach Cara Matthews at clmatthe@thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2277.


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Wednesday, January 5, 2005