Our region is marking the Martin Luther King Day holiday today. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh held its 5th Annual MLK Day of Service. Volunteers worked on gutting houses while kids were building birdhouses.
Some 65 volunteers with Habitat Newburgh worked on four houses on South Miller Street, part of the city’s historic district. They braved blustery conditions and a temperature of just 25 degrees. Celeste Bloomer is a house captain who has been volunteering with Habitat for about 16 years.
“Today we’re cleaning out a house. We’re doing major demolition. This is 24 South Miller. It’s going to be a Women’s Build. We’re getting it ready for a family,” says Bloomer. “We had an asbestos and lead abatement done already, so that’s all out, but what’s left are the walls and the ceilings and the doors and the windows and we’re taking it right down to the studs, and then we’ll reframe inside.”
She says the house will take about a year to complete, and that’s working Wednesdays and Saturdays. Bloomer mentioned the house she is working on is a Women Build project. This means at least 75 percent of volunteers working on the house are women. This particular house is Habitat Newburgh’s seventh house under the international Women Build program.
Cathy Collins is executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh.
“We build homes, community and hope. And I think that hope sometimes may be one of the best things that we do because that allows other people to join us in a very different way,” Collins says.
She says the Dr. Martin Luther King day of service, and the other days Habitat volunteers work, show people coming together for the purpose of improving lives and building community.
“Community is built both in the buildings that we… and the end result but also in the process of that building,” says Collins. “I always say that I love that I watch that barriers that so often separate us, which can be age or socioeconomic or race or even political - we don’t even know what most people’s political bent is here - that by doing this together that all those barriers fall away. And I think Dr. King would be very proud of what happens on a Habitat site.”
She says when Habitat completes a house it likely will be appraised between $125,000 and $145,000, depending on size. Erica Pikul and Adrian Cepeda are Goshen High School seniors in the National Honor Society. Here’s Cepeda.
“I’m always sitting. My parents are always telling me to get off my phone so it was kind of a good idea to come out and help people,” Cepeda says. “And I want to help people for a living, kind of a thing. It feels good.”
Pikul says she also would rather help in this manner than sit around on a day off. And she shares her view of community.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in this community or in, if you’re in Goshen or if you’re in Newburgh or if you’re in Monroe, what matters is that you’re helping all people,” Pikul says.
And while the MLK Day of Service is Habitat Newburgh’s fifth, it was the first year to involve younger kids, who built birdhouses back in Habitat’s Washington Street space. Aidan Grice is a first grader. What will he do with the birdhouse he built and painted?
“We’re going to give it to the people that are moving in the houses,” answers Grice.
“And what do you think about not being in school and painting birdhouses for people?” asks Dunne.
“It makes me feel good,” says Villano.
That was second grader Aaron Villano. David McTamaney led the birdhouse building activity. He is a lifelong City of Newburgh resident and has volunteered with Habitat since 1999.
“So I’ve been volunteering for 16 years, and I would like to think that these kids who are starting here today, I hope that 16 years from now I could come by when I’m 86 years old, instead of 70 years old, and see that they’re still volunteering and working and now they’re building a little bit bigger houses than what we built today,” says McTamaney. “So they’re helping. We’re building houses. They’re building houses. I hope down the line they can help us build more houses in Newburgh.”