On Thursday, December 10, Habitat for Humanity celebrated the completion of the 150th home in Sussex County. The home, located in Ingram Village in Ellendale, is the home of Angeline Saintilme and her family.
“We are thrilled to be here today,” Kevin Gilmore, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, said. “Tis the season to be jolly and tis the season to count our blessings and fellowship with each other. And here we are in fellowship as a Habitat family, a Habitat community. Today, we celebrate the blessing this home will be to Angeline and her family. The dedication is a tradition we have here and around the world with Habitat where we bless the house for the future homeowner and dedicate it in Jesus name, asking for His blessing.”
Gilmore pointed out that not only was this a dedication for the family, but it also marked a milestone for Habitat for Humanity as it was the 150th home built in Sussex County since Habitat began 29 years ago. He stated that it takes an average of 300 volunteers to build a Habitat for Humanity home and that the home represented $20 million in investment in communities throughout Sussex County.
“Think about the impact, not just the volunteers but those who are living in these homes or will soon be living in a home built by Habitat,” Gilmore said. “There are 564 people living in Habitat for Humanity houses in Sussex County. That is 564 people who know where they are sleeping tonight as the weather grows colder. That is 564 people who know what their mortgage payment will be next month and that know their house will be there next month, that it is not going away. If a window breaks, they fix it because it is their window, their yard. These people now have a living room to invite their friends over to play games, a yard to play in, a place to fellowship. Many people in Sussex County pay over half their income for housing. If you are paying more than half your paycheck for housing, do you have enough money to pay for other things like food, transportation or clothing? Probably not, especially if you are at the lower end of the income scale.”
Four years ago, according to Gilmore, Habitat dedicated their 100th home in Sussex County in Seaford and their 50th house nine years ago in Frankford. The first home built in Sussex County was in Georgetown approximately 25 years ago and Gilmore explained that the homeowner was able to pay their mortgage off ten years ago. Gilmore stated that it takes partnerships to build the homes which also build communities and hope.
“We realize that it is not just about building houses,” Gilmore said. “It is also about keeping people in houses and making houses better, more sturdy and more livable. For this reason, we have added a financial coaching program, a repair program, an energy consultation and service solution program because we realize we are not going to build our way out of the affordable housing crisis. If we keep people in their houses, we make a bigger impact.”
A proclamation from Governor John Carney was read at the dedication and Habitat for Humanity volunteers also presented Saintilme with gifts that would help her get her household started. Ed Lewandowsk, President of the Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, presented Saintilme with a ceremonial key to the home.
“It is indeed a privilege to join this celebration today,” Lewandowski said. “From the many donors that made this possible to the suppliers of materials to the many hands, especially volunteers who built this beautiful home, to the staff and leadership who make this possible and certainly to Angeline and her family who invested sweat equity in this endeavor. Mostly, I want to thank God for this opportunity. It is with great joy that I present you with this key with the hope it unlocks many great opportunities and creates memories for you throughout the year.”
Heather Barony, Director of Family Empowerment, presented a Bible that was signed on the inside by volunteers and staff, a Habitat for Humanity tradition that is provided to every homeowner when they move into their new home. Barony stated that the Bible is presented in recognition of “who makes all this possible.” Geslin Estime, a Habitat for Humanity homeowner himself, helped mentor Saintilme through the process.
“I am glad to see everyone here as my dream becomes true,” Saintilme said. “I am appreciative of everyone who gave their time to make this happen. I am especially thankful to Habitat for this beautiful house for my family. Without you, none of this would have happened. I love you all.”
After the presentations, volunteers and staff laid hands on the home as Pastor Denis Rubin of the First Haitian Baptist Church blessed the home.