MADISON, NJ – Despite cold, rainy weather on March 19, Habitat for Humanity’s Executive Director Blair Schleicher Bravo, initiated “Plan B.”
“We always have a back-up plan,” she said of the change from icy conditions at the site on Strickland Place to a reception and lunch at Chateau Thierry.
“It’s not easy to find affordable housing in Morris County,” she said of the three houses that are being erected just off Orchard Street. “Much work goes on even before the groundbreaking.” She said the projects are “built on a foundation of God’s love. All who labor here are building much more than a house. It’s a collaborative effort.” She added, “Projects like this don’t happen overnight.”
Madison Mayor Robert Conley commended former Mayor Mary Anna Holden for the work she had done early on, as well as Madison Council President Carmela Vitale. He contrasted the before and after view of the site, which had been a polluted dumping ground and “an eyesore.” The after transformation will offer three house design options: Victorian, Colonial and Gambrel. “Now we’re investing back into the community,” he said.
Morris County Freeholder Hank Lyon said he saw three benefits of the Habitat projects; It puts the properties back on the tax rolls, it’s an opportunity to help neighbors and it provides housing to people who need it.
Lou Ricchio of the Madison Affordable Housing Corp. has been involved for the last 10 years with habitats in Morristown, Summit and Madison. He commended former mayor Jack Dunne as well as board members and “the spirit of Madison.”
Sabine Von Aulock, Director of the Morris County Division of Community Development, described the block grants and other sources of government funding.
“We have no bank loans,” Schleicher Bravo said. “We hold the mortgage, with zero interest, for 30 years.” Morris Habitat has had zero foreclosures, she said.
A highlight of the gathering was the introduction of the families who will occupy the homes. Carolyn Haraksin, Director of Homeowner Relations, said 150 people came to the orientation and Morris Habitat had received over 50 applications. That list was narrowed to 12 families and the final three were all from Madison. The families of Gavasheli, Ekenzar and Artale all thanked the community for the tremendous outpouring of help. “It’s a dream come true,” one person said, adding her property backs up to her grandmother’s. Dahlia Ekenzar said, “Thank God for this amazing opportunity, for helping families to make a dream come true. We’ll keep living the dream and my children will follow in my footsteps.”
The gathering concluded with a birthday cake for Executive Director Schleicher Bravo. An official groundbreaking at the site will be held at a later date.