Standing beside his family in front of 126 William Street, Lorenzo Victoriano excitedly raised his fist. On his face was all the joy in the world. With each declaration of joy, the crowd echoed his emotions in cheers.
Victoriano’s girlfriend, Asuncion Lopez is one of the proud new owners of 118 William Street. The other owner is her son, Gelacio Telactapa. This dwelling is Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh’s 100th improved house.
Last Saturday, people from all over gathered together to celebrate Habitat’s 20th anniversary and official 100 house mark. Habitat celebrated the occasion with a public dedication of their 98th, 99th, and 100th house. The occasion involved house tours for members of the public, a key gifting ceremony in front of the 98th house, 126 William Street, and a party at the Newburgh Armory.
For 20 years, Habitat has been improving homes all over Newburgh. Their goal is to create affordable safe housing for families in need. In addition, they want to be able to restore greatness to neighborhoods like William Street.
In order for homeowners to officially move into dwellings, they must complete sweat equity and homeowner classes. Sweat equity involves homeowners volunteering to help work on their future home or other homes. In the first month after successfully applying for the 99th home, the Lopez- Ruiz family put in 81 hours of sweat equity to see 124 William Street be completed.
Matt Arbolino, Executive Director of Habitat, emphasized the partnership between the organization and homeowners. “They [homeowners] put in between 250 and 500 hours of sweat equity,” said Arbolino. “This is not a handout. These are families that are coming to partner with us and really break their backs to make their lives better for their families.”
Throughout the ceremony, families spoke over their excitement of finally completing all the requirements necessary to finally call themselves homeowners. Although many spoke in Spanish with the help of a translator, no translator was needed to see and feel the excitement over their new homes.
Clergy members were invited to bless the houses. Pastor Porfirio Matos of Iglesia de Dios Central blessed the Lopez- Ruiz family and their journey ahead. “Not only we gonna be blessing this house,” said Matos. “We gonna be blessing this community.”
Arbolino is optimistic over Habitat’s work and the future of each family that has worked with Habitat. “One of the things I’ll always say,” said Arbolino. “Is that one of the most common things with all the Habitat families that come through, is phenomenal parents that really care about their children.”
The ceremony ended after the 100th key gifting to Lopez and her family. The crowd slowly dispersed to The Newburgh Armory in search of more excitement and celebration. Some people lingered to marvel at the completed houses, and speak to the new homeowners. As the crowd cleared, one thing remained certain, William Street and its new occupants have a bright future ahead.