by Joseph DeGweck

It was a mid-spring Saturday morning. As I walked toward the back door of my home, I was greeted by the most phenomenal sight. An image of a rainbow had been projected onto the corner of my back room. Its appearance brought notice to the brilliance of the rising sun as its light pierced through the many panes of windows that surrounded this space. My spirit now enlightened and my senses now enhanced, I began to search for its source. As the sunlight glistened through the frost found on my window panes, the drops of moisture created a filter that seemed to separate and identify this spectrum of sunlight. This multi-colored band seemed to blanket the uneven slightly cracked surface of my wall and its wonder brought with it a subtle sense of deity. I remember thinking to myself; if only my wife were here to see this, perhaps I could get out of having to paint this room now. No such luck. And so I moved on. As I opened the door to the outside of my home I took notice of the scratches on its wooden surface that I had painted over. They were tributes of welcome, probably meant more for my wife than for me, left behind by my family dogs who have since passed many years ago;. I continued on my quest of the day as I walked down my back stairs toward the driveway. I felt the warmth of the sun now and heard the creak of my stairs under my weight. I saw the puddles left in the uneven surface of my driveway by the night rain and thought that I had better order a new load of stone this year. This was going to be a good day. Why? Because I knew that in about an hour I would return home. Back to a habitat that held within its walls the sights and sounds of my children growing. A dwelling that bosomed the memories of our parents visiting and the musing of our grandchildren playing hide-in-seek or coloring on the floor, creating a new facade for our refrigerator door. How blessed I was. As I drove away from this dwelling I realized that although it was not picture perfect and it would never make the cover of “Better Homes and Gardens”, it was my castle and enclosed within was my life’s purpose. This house had evolved to become a treasure box which embraced my family, a chest, not of gold, but of cherished chronicles of years past and the hopefulness of years to come.

The Birth of a Hopeful Community

This brings us to the purpose of this article. Once again we have the fortunate opportunity to unearth yet another agency that is dedicated to the betterment of our Western New York Region and its residents. This organization is Habitat for Humanity. In 1985, at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, a community of concerned citizens embarked on a mission “to partner with selected low income families helping them become home-owners”. Two of the original founders of this Buffalo affiliate were Mr. Ronald Talboys and his wife, Margaret. Together they have championed, along with so many others, to have provided home ownership for 644 people, including 361 children. A dream now becomes a reality. A reality that at one time seemed impossible. Through the laborious efforts of their volunteers and generous response of their sponsors, ninety cents of every dollar goes into the construction of a home for a family who otherwise may have never been able to afford one.

Over the past 22 years, 161 houses have found a home with a new family. These are not only new builds, but 75% of them were renovations. “Well experienced”, not “professional”, builders work along side the families to foster their home. The University of Buffalo, Buffalo State College, Canisius College, ECC, BOCES are just a few of the community resources that continue to provide support toward this endeavor. Baker Hall and AmeriCorps-Youthbuild provide volunteers and work crews. Valu-Home Centers has, for the past 14 years, purchased a new car for raffle and has raised over two million dollars for Habitat affiliates from here to Pennsylvania. Target, HSBC, TV Channels 4&7 are just a few of the local corporate sponsors that contribute toward giving these families ownership in our community. A community where, at all levels, giving, volunteering, and helping are just second nature and anticipated.

The Nurturing of Commitment

Locally, sixteen families will take ownership this year and there is a goal to expand this to 20-25 families in the future. Re-habs with new plumbing, electrical services and heating continue to be renovated within our city limits. Building lots continue to be contributed by the City of Buffalo at the cost of $1.00. Forty families are currently working toward qualifying for homes through their “sweat equity”. Women built homes and other special service groups are becoming involved. Sponsoring churches, companies, estates and individuals continue to underwrite these houses sold at cost without interest to families that qualify. Neighborhoods are becoming more stable through “home ownership occupants”. With over 1700 affiliates throughout the United States, Habitat is considered the 15th largest home builder in the USA and Habitat-Buffalo continues to flourish within this valued framework of establishing a hope and a home for our neighbors.

In the past, donations and mortgage payments were used to build new homes and renovate old. Now there is a new source of revenue available and a new opportunity for our residents to be involved. Just recently established was the concept of the “ReStore”. Located at 501 Amherst St., this retail outlet sells new and “gently used” merchandise such as: furniture, appliances, cabinets, doors and much more. The proceeds go directly toward building and renovating more homes for families in Buffalo. Donations are accepted and customers are wanted. Contact them at (716) 852-6607.

This dedicated endeavor not only provides homes but it also educates and trains our youth through its partnership with educational institutions. Habitat-Buffalo instills within its volunteers a consummate work ethic by making this experience “fun”, communal and satisfying.

There is constantly a need for volunteers and resources to help this effort grow as it improves the community in which we all live. Financial counselors, skilled office workers, individuals with skills that support the structure of business such as marketing, selecting and evaluating properties and applicants are all needed.

The Liberation of a Community

As Habitat-Buffalo continues on its quest to provide affordable housing for many, it will be faced with many challenges. As these new homeowners continue on their quest toward a dream they also will be challenged. It is with this in mind that Habitat has created a support system that will overcome these challenges. Today there is an establishment of volunteers and sponsors that sustain these efforts. Tomorrow there will be a greater need. We invite you to become a part of the dreams of all involved. Grab a hammer and a tape-measure. Bring with you your sharpened skills, your life’s experiences, and share with others in their growth toward homeownership and independence. Help build a community of neighbors that, together, will overcome the challenges that the future will bring. Visit Habitat-Buffalo at to help.

For as these new home owners approach their abode and peer upon their life’s dream let them know that in Western New York there are others that care. That there is a sense to serve the good of all in this community. That the warmth comes not only from the rising sun but from the hearts of our people. That the vision of a new day is endowed within the efforts of all our neighbors. That through the efforts of Habitat-Buffalo others will experience the treasures of family and home. That we are building our community one home at a time; one family, one friend, one neighbor. Maybe you?

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