Community Celebrates Habitat for Humanity House
Issue   |   Wed, 09/28/2011 - 02:32
Photo by Sarah Ashman '14

On Tuesday, Sept. 27, the College community gathered at 18 Stanley Street to celebrate the completion of the fourth and final Habitat for Humanity home on the three acres of land donated to Habitat for Humanity by the College in 2005. '

Several individuals who played key roles in the completion of the homes gave brief speeches expressing their gratitude for the effort and support of volunteers. Amongst those speaking were Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity Board President Sanford Belden, Director of Facilities Jim Brassord and President Biddy Martin. The three owners of the Stanley Street Habitat for Humanity homes also spoke about how the organization impacted their lives.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that works to “eliminate homelessness and substandard housing by making decent affordable shelter a matter of conscience and action for all people.” Students from the College have been volunteering with the organization for many years.

In his senior year, James Patchett ’02 strengthened the College’s involvement by approaching then-president Tom Gerety with the idea of donating land to Habitat for Humanity. The idea garnered much support within the Amherst community and within a few years, the College had officially donated three acres on Stanley Street to the nonprofit, becoming the first private college ever to donate land to Habitat for Humanity.

Working closely with the Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, the College chapter of Habitat for Humanity began construction on the first housing unit in September of 2006. The homes were designed by Amherst-based Kuhn-Riddle Architects, who sought to create homes that were highly ecologically efficient, yet simple in design. The idea of simplicity in home design is extremely important to Habitat for Humanity, as it relies on volunteers to carry out all of its construction.

Many of these volunteers are inexperienced when it comes to such work. Phyllis Keenan, the newest Habitat for Humanity homeowner recalls working with a group of girls from the College who “barely knew one end of a hammer from the other.” She said that it was only later in the day that “the girls wanted to work on their own window next to the window I was working on. They had already gained confidence in their own abilities.”

To Keenan, the assistance provided by the students was the most valuable asset Habitat for Humanity has to offer.
“Those girls were giving something to me by coming and working on my house and I’m glad I could give them self-empowerment in return,” she said.

Ashlee Cancio-Bello, owner of the second Amherst Habitat for Humanity home, agreed with this sentiment.

“I’ve always felt like Habitat for Humanity is like love in action,” said Cancio-Bello. “People are coming and giving to the community and the community is giving back to them. It’s really something wonderful.”