Middlesex Habitat for Humanity is hosting its first fundraiser on the shoreline on Friday, April 28 at the Elks Lodge in Westbrook. The event celebrates another first: The first time Habitat will be able to build in the shoreline area on a parcel of land it purchased with a gift that specified the construction be in Westbrook.
“I have always had a personal goal to build Habitat homes in the shoreline area. The Westbrook project will be a dream come true for me,” said Dave Evangelisti of Essex, the vice president of the Habitat group. He says the response to building in Westbrook has been “positive and the enthusiasm is overwhelming.”
The fundraiser, Raise Your Glass-to Raise the Roof, will feature Connecticut wines, distilled spirits, and beers. For non-drinkers, there will also be Connecticut-made soft drinks.
“And there will be appetizers, heavy appetizers,” Evangelisti said.
Guitarist and singer Alex Lentini will provide the music.
Since it began operation in l996, Middlesex Habitat for Humanity has built 11 houses and constructed an additional two homes that were then disassembled, boxed, and sent to Mobile, Alabama, for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Habitat for Humanity, which operates worldwide, was founded in l976.
Volunteers do all Habitat building, with the exception of a paid construction supervisor. Among the best known of these volunteers was former president Jimmy Carter, who has been associated with Habitat since l984. He and his wife Rosalynn sponsor an annual Habitat event, the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, which has built houses throughout the United States as well as in Europe and Asia. All the people who will ultimately live in Habitat homes are required to put in from 200 to 400 hours of volunteer sweat equity.
According to Sarah Bird, the executive director of Middlesex Habitat, the waiting list for Habitat homes far exceeds the organization’s ability to provide them. Habitat families have to have incomes between 25 and 60 percent of the median income of the county in which they live. They must also have a critical need for decent housing and they must have the ability to keep up with mortgage payments tailored to be 30 percent of their income. Habitat, moreover, keeps working with people once they are in their homes to ensure a smooth transition to the responsibilities of ownership.
Habitat has what it describes as a “silent” second, 30-year mortgage on the property if the amount the owners can pay isn’t sufficient to satisfy the loan. If the owners sell the home before the 30 years is up, they have to pay back both mortgages. If they live in the home for the entire period, the silent second mortgage is forgiven.
“This is a hand up, not a hand out,” Bird said. “We’re not flipping houses for sale.”
At the moment, Habitat has some seven projects lined up in Middlesex County, some of them on land purchased through grants others as a result of people willing to sell property for under market value or donate property to Habitat, which cannot afford to pay going market prices for property in this area. Even when they get donated property or property at less than market value, Evangelisti noted, Habitat must still raise additional funds for building.
Habitat both builds new homes for people and rehabilitates existing structures. Rehabilitation, Bird pointed out, is often not the economically prudent choice. An existing building may have critical and costly structural flaws to be addressed and, in addition, Habitat makes all its homes energy efficient.
“You could be putting a lot of money in and not be sure of what you are getting,” Bird explained.
Evangelisti was key in setting up one of the ongoing programs of Habitat known as ReStore, a resale home and hardware depot in Cromwell. At ReStore, people donate new or lightly used home equipment, anything from large appliances to bricks and flooring, for resale. Donors can claim a tax deduction, but there is another benefit—they don’t have to figure out how to dispose of the material. ReStore will pick it up.
“It’s a win, win,” Evangelisti said. “Shoppers get quality merchandise at lower cost. Habitat for Humanity makes money that can be used to build more homes, and it’s green; we’re recycling things.”
Both Evangelisti and Bird emphasized that Habitat for Humanity becomes far more than building houses. “It is really about building ongoing relationships. We impact their lives,” Evangelisti said of the people that become homeowners as a result of Habitat’s work, “but they impact our lives, too. They make our lives better.”
Raise Your Glass–to Raise the Roof
The Raise Your Glass–to Raise the Roof fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity is on Friday, April 28, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Westbrook Elks Lodge. For tickets and information, visit www.habitatmiddlesex.org.