NEWBURGH - Three words said it all.
The phrase "Hip, hip, hooray" could be heard resonating down Washington Street on Sunday afternoon. The jubilant scene was held in a large parking lot, situated across from the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh’s headquarters. Close to 500 excited walkers and Habitat Volunteers, many clad in green tee-shirts, congregated near a center stage where Habitat Board Member Tom Conroy kicked off the 14th Annual Walk for Housing event.
"Today, we are celebrating," sad Conroy just prior to leading the chant. "You’re going to be amazed by how beautiful these houses are, and along the way we are going to teach you some things and ask you for your help."
So far that community assistance has resulted in the completion of 64 Habitat homes in Newburgh, a city in dire need. With 1,800 families currently eligible to apply for a Habitat home in Newburgh, the need is stronger than ever.
As building costs rise and funds are declining, the non-profit Newburgh organization remains committed to reaching its 100 house goal by the end of 2016. Thanks to the success of Sunday’s Walk, that century mark is closer to becoming a reality; over $50,000 was raised. Now, people like Jeanine Jennings will have a greater chance of realizing their dream of safe, affordable housing.
"Today is a very important day; people are able to come out and really get to see what we do in the community," said Jennings, who was participating in the Walk for her second year. "For me, being able to give my son something I was not able to have as a child is the best part of being a Habitat owner."
Jennings also pointed to another reward: sweat equity. Habitat owners are not given a "hand out," but a "hand up." Jennings contributed over 250 hours to working on her home as well as other Habitat houses; her arduous labor was completed in under five months. Acquiring priceless skills, such as laying tiles, window framing and insulating, Jennings further cited another priceless reward.
"It truly brings the community together," said Jennings. "People work together, and just really want to make the place they live a better one for everyone."
Senator Bill Larkin, spoke of still more ways Habitat leaves its imprint on the community.
"Once a Habitat House goes up, everything around it grows," stressed Larkin.
Signs of that growth were taken in during the walk as a large contingent flooded the streets that serve as the home address of many Habitat Participants. Guided by energizing background music and holding up signs of support, they had the special opportunity to see just how much homes can change a community.
At the walk’s conclusion, four more Habitat homes were dedicated. 31-39 East Parmenter (Faith Builds) officially brought the City of Newburgh organization even closer to that 100 number goal.
One of those proud new homeowners was Tanice Fisher. Flanked by her three daughters, each of whom raised monies at their schools and participated in the Walk for Housing, Fisher was all smiles as she headed to the starting line to lend her support for an organization that has forever changed her family’s lives.
"Today is a new start for our family," said Fisher, who logged 250 sweat equity hours. "A new home, a safe neighborhood; I couldn’t ask for more."