Waashington County Habitat for Humanity celebrated another step on its way to breaking the cycle of poverty in the community last week when it dedicated its 47th home to new homeowner Cindy Pezza of .
The dedication culminated the project of the organization’s Women Build—a community-based, women-driven effort to help. The home was made possible by partnerships with Pezza and countless volunteers, and various financial supporters, including an anonymous foundation that made a large contribution.
“It’s a great feeling,” Pezza said. “It took a while to come to fruition, but everyone stuck together and I’m proud to say that I’ve gone from being a Habitat for Humanity partner to a homeowner. I couldn’t be happier to be in my new home.”
Pezza, a mother of two, partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity group for the past several years to prepare for the dream of homeownership. Habitat homeowners must meet certain criteria to become a Habitat partner family, including a need (living in substandard housing), an ability to pay (income requirements of 30-60 percent of area median income) and a willingness to partner (complete 350-500 hours of “sweat equity,” including financial counseling).
“Washington County Habitat for Humanity offers a hand up, not a handout,” the group's executive director, Tony Gacek, said. “That’s one of the reasons these home dedications are so special.
"Our team of volunteers and staff has been working alongside Cindy this whole time to build her family a beautiful home, and we’re all proud to be here today to hand over the keys to her," Gacek said. "She’s officially a homeowner now and to us, that means a lot.”
Studies have shown the benefits of home ownership empower homeowners and their families. Habitat homeowners like Pezza now have an affordable shelter for their families and this enables them to foster loving relationships in the community. Habitat families invest in the community, too, by increasing the tax base and showcasing their pride of ownership.
The work for Washington County Habitat for Humanity and its mission doesn’t end after Pezza’s home. The organization’s 48th home is currently under construction in Washington and home number 49 is scheduled to break ground later this summer in Cokeburg.
“We’re excited to see our 50th home build on the not too distant horizon,” said Conrad Rossetti, board president. “That’s a project that we can’t wait to celebrate with the community. We like to say that our affiliate is building homes and building hope in Washington County. It’s quite striking to step back and see not only the number of families we’ve served, but the personal impact we’ve had on our various constituents. We’re proud of what we do.”