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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SHU Habitat for Humanity Chapter Builds Dream House in Bridgeport

SHU Habitat for Humanity Chapter Builds Dream House in Bridgeport
(for Sacred Heart University distribution)
By Mike Lauterborn
ã 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Bridgeport, CT – The dream is coming true, not only for a deserving family, but also for the hard working group of students that have helped to make it a reality.

On Friday, March 18, construction began on a three-bedroom home at a once debris-filled corner lot at 554 Jane Street. The home was made possible by the collaborative efforts of Sacred Heart University’s Habitat for Humanity campus chapter, the Youth United division of Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County and grants and considerations from the university, city organizations and corporate sponsors.

Kelly Leather, co-fundraising chair for the Habitat campus chapter and a supervisor at the work site, provided background about the project and how it came to fruition.

“We broke ground back in February, but due to snow, the excavation was postponed,” she said. “It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that we were able to pour the foundation. In the meantime, we constructed walls in Habitat’s warehouse on Barnum Avenue so that when we arrived onsite with our crew, we were prepared and ready to go.”

Leather said the city of Bridgeport sold the lot to Habitat for one dollar and that the new home will stand beside another Habitat-built house. In terms of key features, besides the three bedrooms the home will have two stories, an open dining room that will flow into a living room and two bathrooms.

Leather said the immediate neighborhood is dynamic. “I’ve worked in Bridgeport for the past four years and in this area I see so much hope and life,” she said. “And residents have embraced our presence. A random passerby this morning thanked us for our efforts. I think they appreciate our work here.”

According to Leather, the crew working on the project onsite at any given time numbers 12-15. “Volunteers are drawn from our campus club of over 300 members,” she said. “They are all students ranging from freshmen to seniors. On the job site, the participating students can sign up for any building task they want and are guided by construction supervisors from Habitat.”

With regard to the campus’ Habitat club, Leather said it has existed for over a dozen years and “is a way for students to make a difference in local communities by helping to provide decent places that people can call home.”

Leather said a family has already been selected for this particular home – a couple and their four children. She explained the criteria used to determine a family’s qualifications for homeownership as being three-part: homeowners must qualify financially, be able to satisfy their mortgage payments and partner in terms of “sweat equity” contributions working on their own homes as well as other homes. Leather said, most times, homeowners that receive Habitat help are currently living in conditions that have been determined to be inadequate or substandard for their families.

Leather noted that the cost of building a house in Bridgeport is $175,000. To that end, she said, “Youth United was successful in obtaining a $10,000 grant from State Farm, we received a grant from a neighborhood stabilization program of $75,000 and our campus chapter contributed $13,500. We also received an in-kind contribution from the university for plumbing and electrical work equating to roughly $12,000 and funds from Habitat. Of course, getting the lot for a $1 also saved us $25,000.”

The project has been the culmination of much hard work. “The Club has been fundraising for a number of years,” Leather said. “To see the walls actually being raised has been a dream come true. It’s hard to put in words how we feel about it. I sent a photo from the job site to my fellow co-chair who replied ‘Perfect, and full heart.’ We feel that we’ve fully been able to fully give what we’ve always wanted to give to the city of Bridgeport and that four children are going to live in a home of their dreams, experiencing the same fortune as many of us.”

Nursery School Fundraiser a Truckload of Fun

Nursery School Fundraiser a Truckload of Fun
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – A bulldozer. A cement mixer. Logging truck. Steam roller. Backhoe. Fire truck.

These were but a few of the 37 vehicles onsite at Coleytown Elementary School Saturday morning participating in the 6th Annual Touch-A-Truck Event benefiting Westport Weston Cooperative Nursery School. Hundreds of families attended, to climb in and out of the vehicles as well as take advantage of a bounce house, facepainting, a Little Gym class, Shaolin Studios kung fu demo and a Roaming Railroad train ride around the school property. Admission was $20 per family, who received a goody bag and miniature toy truck.

“Funds go towards the whole operating budget and help run the nursery school,” said Maureen Asiel, the public relations coordinator for the event. “It’s a progressive school for 2, 3 and 4-year-olds with a parent-run board. Part of being involved in the school is giving time to events like this, so all our volunteers here are parents and teachers at the nursery school.”

The event’s major sponsors included AuPair in America, East Coast Irrigation, The Fresh Market and Women’s Health Care of New England. About a dozen local businesses also provided support.

One of the school parents, Elana Faiman, from Weston, said, “The great thing about the event is that the kids get to climb in and on all the vehicles, which is lots of fun for them. Funny enough, the school bus is one of the most popular. The boys also love the backhoe and the husbands like the cupcake truck. There’s something for everyone, it’s a great cause for the school and we all have an opportunity to get together.”

Tom Maloney, from Ridgefield, attending with his son Lachlan, 3, enjoyed the train ride and were checking out the cement mixer. “We were here last year,” said Maloney. “Lachlan loves checking out all the trucks and it’s a great way to spend some time with him while raising money for the school.” 

When Lachlan was asked to name his favorite vehicle, he said, “I love the road roller (steam roller)!”

Another area parent, Laura Silver, attending from Greenwich with her son Blake, 2, said, “I’m happy to support the local community and be part of a fun event… for all ages.”

Laurie Roda, owner of Compo Limousine, which supplied an eight-passenger stretch for the event, was glad to provide access to her vehicle. “This is the first year I’m participating,” she said. “It’s fun to see the kids interacting with all the different vehicles and it’s a great way for me to support the cause while getting some exposure for my business, too.”

Trumbull Motorcycle Officer John Threshie, who had brought his Harley patrol bike, was a veteran of the event. “We’ve been here several years,” he said. “The kids have a blast, though sometimes they’re a little afraid of the bike. I wish they had something like this when I was a kid.”

Westport firefighter Michael Grasso, who was trying his best to stay warm while giving tours of the department’s Engine 7 pumper truck, said, “This is fun and I get to educate the public about the truck and more of what we do as far as services. It’s a little cold but people are showing up nonetheless.”