Maria Romano and her husband, Arvi Lawson, fell on hard times a few years back.
Their landlord told the family they had to move. Lawson lost his job at the same time and Romano was taking maternity leave from her job.
Fortunately, Romano’s mother saw a Habitat for Humanity flyer in the break room at her job at Lowe's in Toms River. After applying, the family was selected.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that partners with families in need and the community to build affordable housing. Families are chosen based on need of shelter, ability to make payments and willingness to work with Habitat for Humanity in constructing the house.
“We do not give the house away. We sell it to the family for cost. The cost of the materials and time is about half of purchasing a home," said Dick Read, president of the Board of Directors of Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity. "We hold a 0 percent mortgage for 30 years and the family will pay about $300 a month. The family does have to pay the taxes and the insurance, but it will still cost them less than if they were renting,”
In September, Habitat for Humanity held a ground breaking ceremony for the Lawson family's new home on Sixth Avenue in Pine Lake Park. By the end of December, the floor and frame had been built.
“Our groundbreaking ceremony is when we officially recognize our new partner family. In the ceremony, we begin to engage the new family, Habitat and the community in a new partnership for the next 6 to 8 months as we build the home,” said Suzan Fichtner, executive director of Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity.
“The family will engage in sweat equity, which is hands-on work and what the family will do in helping build their own home,” Fichtner said.
Other ways that the family can contribute is by volunteering in Habitat for Humanity’s thrift shop “ReStore” or through taking part in a Habitat committee.
“The kids get credit for hours by getting good grades, which helps to bring the children into the partnership” Fichtner said.
Corporate partnerships that are contributing their free services to this construction project are , Midlantic Construction and Crane Pumps. Habitat for Humanity Club is also volunteering on the Lawson home.
“[The students] will most likely be doing finishing work, including painting, spackling and exterior site work such as landscaping,” said club advisor Joseph Gawlik.
The club has also raised over $1000 for this Manchester home. The money was raised through the "Brick by Brick" fundraiser, during which symbolic paper bricks were sold throughout the school district, and will continue until the home is finished.
"Students and particularly staff were extremely generous," Gawlik said. "This campaign was also publicized on and some very generous donations came in from the public as well."
“We have group of high spirited youth who are willing to give of themselves at a moments notice,” Gawlik said.
Romano said that she is grateful to Habitat for Humanity and their corporate and community partners.
“I am very thankful that Habitat does stuff like this for people and I am one who is going to get it," she said. "I did not believe that we would ever own a home in the future, but thanks to Habitat for Humanity we will in just a few months.”
More information about the organization and its mission is available online.