Country Curtains gives day to work on Habitat house
PITTSFIELD >> On a day when he would normally be managing a five-person facilities crew at Country Curtains in Lee, Justin Pinsonneault found himself installing siding in an unfamiliar backyard.
Pinsonneault, along with seven co-workers, spent Friday preparing the Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity home for its new owner, Sheerece Adams.
"I live in Pittsfield myself," Pinsonneault said. "It's awesome to just give back to the community a little bit. It just makes you feel good."
The Country Curtains volunteers joined Habitat workers as they prepared Adams' home — a duplex near Berkshire Medical Center — for painting and worked to complete the structure's exterior insulation, siding and soffits.
"It's such a pretty, pretty house," said Rebecca Riordan, vice president of human resources for the company. Riordan spent the morning completing window drywall at the unit — 5 Hall Place.
Although volunteers have worked on both units of the house at 5-7 Hall Place, No. 5 received the main focus on Friday, said Daniel Parkins, Habitat's volunteer engagement coordinator.
Habitat took ownership of the home in November 2015. The owner's sentimental attachment to the old house led to the decision to rehabilitate it, rather than take it down. Habitat aims to have the home ready for move-in by Christmas, he said.
Several businesses and organizations have volunteered to work on the house since construction began, including Crane & Co of Dalton and Covestro of Sheffield.
The house was in disrepair when work began in February, said Habitat Executive Director Carolyn Valli. There was extensive mold from a severe roof leak, which required workers to take down almost all the walls. The home also had asbestos shingles that had begun to deteriorate, presenting a health risk.
The age of the house also presented challenges for workers.
The house needed all new wiring and plumbing to be brought to modern code standards, said John Green, a retired contract administrator and volunteer for Habitat.
He has put in approximately 10 hours a week of work for five months on the house. He has been volunteering for Habitat for about 17 years since he retired.
"I found [Habitat] to be a worthwhile organization," he said.
Habitat relies on long-term volunteers like Green to provide guidance to new volunteers, Parkins said.
"It's not just about getting the house up," he said. "It's about having the community be involved."
Not everyone knows that potential Habitat homeowners must be in a financial position to be able to make mortgage payments on their homes, Parkins said.
"There's a huge misconception in the community about people who get Habitat homes," he said.
The target group for Habitat homes are hardworking families who fall just above the income level that would qualify them for first-time homebuyer and other low-interest home loans, he said.
Potential Habitat homeowners agree to put in at least 400 (more for families) "sweat equity" hours working on Habitat homes, he said. The application process involves determining credit scores, financial obligations and income levels of potential homeowners, Parkins said. Approved homeowners must be completely off of any welfare programs at the time they move in, he said.
Mortgages from Habitat are set at 25 percent of gross household income and include principal taxes and homeowner's insurance, Valli said.
This provides a stable, affordable home for families that may have been struggling with disproportionate housing expenses, which helps families avoid needing fuel assistance or food stamps to cover their other living costs.
Pittsfield also could see the beginnings of construction on a ground-up Habitat project as soon as next year.
Central Berkshire Habitat is at the beginning of a feasibility study regarding a proposed six-unit development of zero-energy-ready homes at the intersection of Gordon and Deming streets in Pittsfield, Valli said. If the project is approved by the branch's board of directors, construction would begin late spring or early summer.
How to help ...
Volunteer help is needed at 5-7 Hall Place from 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, when lunch is provided. For information, call (413) 442-3181.
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