Meet our West Fourth St, Lowell Family
The Lessard Family
Danielle Lessard, a single mother of three grown children with children of their own, blesses the day in 1996 that she learned about Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell. “I was living in the Market Mills Apartments in downtown Lowell. A neighbor named Lucy – I will never forget her name – told me that I would probably qualify for a Habitat home since I was working 3 jobs.” Danielle contacted the HFHGL office (then located in Chelmsford) and completed the paperwork. She was offered two homes in Lowell and after seeing both, she chose the house at 50 West Fourth Street. She went “by faith” because it was hard to see to what the house would be like after extensive rehabilitation work. The house was basically gutted with only the outside walls left from the original house. The kitchen floor space was doubled in size, and a new pitched roof was added in the rear. This all took one year. Danielle remembers putting up siding on a cold day in winter when she had icicles in her hair. She also completed her “sweat equity” by working on the other house that she was offered but declined.
The house has a big backyard (one of the few enclosed back yards in the neighborhood) and two parking spots “which is huge in the winter”. Now the house is cozy and newly painted after some upgrades that Danielle did a few years ago, including opening up a wall between the living and dining room and adding recessed lighting in the living room. It is a lovely home for Danielle and her 73 year old mother.
Danielle has worked for 17 years as a Security Guard at Lowell High School. She has never missed a mortgage payment and is close to paying off the mortgage. That will be another milestone and a day of celebration.
“I am thankful for this house with the big backyard where my five grandchildren come to play.”
Meet our Carter Way, Bedford Family
The Wiggins Family
It’s Halloween and 4 year old Jace, dressed as a Ghostbuster, is grinning ear to ear. Jace lives at 4 Carter Way in Bedford, a HFHGL home owned by Debra Wiggins. Debra is getting ready to take him trick or treating in a nearby neighborhood. But while Jace runs around the living room with his Ghostbuster zapper, she sat down to talk about her experience with homeownership through HFHGL.
Debra moved from Alabama to Roxbury in 1990 to get better medical care for her son Demeatrice (“Dee””), who was five at the time. While living in Roxbury, her daughter attended school in Bedford through the METCO program, commuting 4 hours a day on the school bus. She brought home a flyer on Habitat for Humanity that she picked up at school. Debra applied and was selected in April of 2010 for a house that was under construction on Carter Way, a cul-de-sac in Bedford. She earned her “sweat equity” by working on her house and another HFHGL house under construction on Carter Way.
Debra, who works as a private Certified Nurse Assistant in Newton, lives in the house with 31 year old Dee, her daughter who is a junior at Bedford HS, and Jace. She also has a 34 year old son who lives in New York City. Dee has cerebral palsy and attends the Minute Man Arc program in Concord. Each has his/her own room, and the house is handicapped accessible, including a ramp to the back outdoor porch. In fact, 4 Carter Way is the first handicapped house built by HFHGL.
“ With this home my daughter is in a better school system without the long commute and my son is in a great day program. Bedford has a much slower pace which reminds me of my home town in Alabama. The opportunity to raise my children outside of the hustle and bustle of the city and the opportunity to own an affordable accessible home for my son has been such a wonderful blessing! I would not have been able to own a home without Habitat.”
Meet our Winding Lane, Lowell Family
The Coffin Family
“Ray Coffin was one of the lucky ones.” So begins an article in the October 10, 2016 issue of The Lowell Sun about the Coffin family whose home in the Belvidere section of Lowell received 15 new windows. The project was a joint effort between Habitat for Humanity of Greater Lowell and Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. HFHGL sourced and scoped the project, and Raytheon completed the work as part of their RED (Remember Everyone Deployed) Friday volunteer program.
Ray is an 89 year old veteran of the Korean War. He was a partner at Nashoba Travel for 40 years, where he made travel arrangements for service men and women stationed at Fort Devens. He was a bachelor until the age of 78 when he met and married his wife Mary Ann. Mary Ann met the HFHGL Outreach Coordinator at an event at the Lowell Senior Center and learned about HFH’s Critical Home Repair (CHR) Program for senior citizens and veterans.
On Friday September 30 fifteen volunteers from Raytheon installed the windows. The article said, “Ray loved having the crew in the house. He had a blast all day.” Now the strong winds that blow from the Merrimack River don’t rattle the windows of the Coffin house as they once did.
Meet our Dalton St, Lowell Family
The Kawaya Family
Come meet the Kawaya family! Marie Anne Ndjock, is a hardworking mother who works at the UMass Inn and Conference Center in Lowell, MA and Michel Kawaya, the father, works for Aramark. Both parents are extremely involved with their 3 children’s lives, both at home, at school and in the church.
Michel and Marie Anne started out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where life was difficult, dangerous, and impossible for their family. They endured many hardships there, and because of the violence, they escaped to Cameroon when Claudine was a child. In Cameroon, the problems they faced were poverty and discrimination. They lived in the city in a tiny apartment that was falling apart, had cockroaches, mice, and many other conditions that were not healthy for a growing family. Based on the poverty in Africa, they found it difficult obtaining work because they were from another country. After many years, they came to America.
Here, they found a small apartment to live in. But the space is cramped. Michel sleeps in the living room while Marie Anne sleeps in a room with her children. She looks forward to the day she no longer shares the same room as her children, their clothes, suitcases, and two beds pushed together to make one. The bathroom creates another problem because it doesn’t work properly, and often they are forced to shower with cold water. During the winter they would wake up every morning at 5:30am to heat water for a bath because the shower was not working. They understand that happiness is not just having a nice house. They know they are a blessed and happy family because they are together, and healthy. But, they have prayed for a better environment, a safer place to raise their family.
“With our beautiful new home, we will have the chance to invite our friends to spend happy times, such as Christmas together. We like to have a big enough home to have all of our sisters and brothers from our Church know they have a place to be welcome in. We are so thankful for all of the caring people who have seen our need, answered our prayers, and helped us get this amazing house. And God bless all the people that work with Habitat for Humanity and other organizations to go forward and to keep helping others that are in need just as they did with us. Thank you.”
Meet our Rock St, Lowell Family
The Resendes Family
Joanna Resendes and her two boys have been from apartment to apartment since her divorce and she is currently living on the 1st floor of a two family house. The moment she moved in she wasn’t happy but it was the only one that she could afford. It was one problem right after another. She still has things in boxes and her kitchen cabinets are empty due to cockroaches. Food is kept in plastic containers on the kitchen counters. She did approach her landlord regarding the situation.
Not long after, they had a mouse infestation which forced them to go back and forth to stay with family for a month. Returning home they were assured that the problem was taken care of. But one night, Joanna’s oldest son saw a mouse in his bedroom and feces on his brother’s bed. The boys are afraid to sleep in their bedroom so now they all sleep on the couches in the living room. This is not how she wants to raise her boys.
Joanna works at a hospital and would like to work more hours to help with finances but if she does she will receive less in housing assistance and will have less to live on. By becoming a homeowner she will be able to increase her hours and not be penalized. She will be able to contribute more to her family.
Moving to Lowell will bring them close to Joanna’s family. She will have their support, be able to provide her boys a greater stability and give them more opportunities then they have now.
“I’m very thankful to Habitat for Humanity for giving me this opportunity in becoming a homeowner. Being a single mom and financially responsible in raising my two boys on my own I never dreamed that this would be possible. I work hard and will continue working hard to give my boys everything that they need and thanks to Habitat, sponsors and the volunteers that now includes a home of our own. We will always be grateful to you all.”
Meet our 95 Friendship Street, Billerica Family
The Santiago Family
Miguel works as a carpet maker in N. Billerica and Stacy a stay at home mom, takes care of her two girls and four year old son Miguel who has Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy. This disease is progressive and affects every muscle in his body. There is no cure and all they can do is to provide the best for him and enjoy the years this disease will allow him to live. The Santiago’s oldest child, 12 year old daughter Tatiana was diagnosed with Autism at 8 years old. She has selective mutism and anxiety. She’s very shy and doesn’t talk till she is comfortable with you. Her family is helping her with that. Then there is 8yr year old daughter Adriana. She’s a big helper and loves to take care of her brother.
They currently live in a two bedroom apartment which is considered to be an apartment for a person with a disability. Tatiana and Adriana share a bedroom and the second bedroom is where they keep their son’s equipment. There isn’t enough space for his bed so he shares a room with his parents. Due to the lack of space, the living room was converted into the parent’s bedroom.
The apartment complex does not allow the children to ride bikes or write with sidewalk chalk. To make things harder, their van has been hit twice in the apartment complex and attacked for parking in a handicapped spot. The neighbors upstairs are very loud making it hard for the children to sleep.
The Santiago’s know they need to move and that owning a home will provide a healthier, safer environment. They applied to Habitat and their prayers were answered. Habitat is changing their lives even before they move in. They have experienced so much loss and heartache. Knowing their children will be safe, have room to grow, invite family and friends over and to finally ride bikes and write with side walk chalk is what they dreamed of. Stacy and Miguel look forward to working hard to make their lives better and provide a safe and comfortable home for their three beautiful children.
“This house means my freedom in all aspects of the word. This house means that my children will be able to run free with no restrictions as they currently have. It means my children finally get to write with sidewalk chalk. This house means my son will be able to have his own room and not be cramped with his parents in the living room we so call our bedroom.
Thanks to this home we will finally get to call it home. A place we’re we can feel very proud, and room to walk around and not bump into furniture.”
The Medeiros Family – 49 Rock Street, Lowell
Sandra Medeiros is a single working mom raising 5 children and currently living in a two-bedroom apartment in which they have sacrificed the living room to convert into a third bedroom. One quirky aspect of the apartment is that there are doors leading to the outside in almost every room, making Sandra nervous because they live on a busy street. Sandra’s five boys range in age from 9 months, to 4, 7, 13 and 14 years.
“Our current apartment has water damage, mold and visits from mice and cockroaches. Due to water damage we are afraid the bathroom floor will cave in. Due to past experience I am afraid to report my landlord and be forced to move out and live in a hotel which happened once before. I don’t want to put my boys through that again and be homeless” says Sandra.
Living on Rock Street will provide the family with a safe, decent home. The children will be able to play outside and enjoy the new park which will be going in behind their new home. Currently, there is no place for the boys to play due to the busy street where they are now living.
Sandra has lost two partners (one to a brain aneurism and one to a drowning). She is all the boys have and she longs for a better life for them. Sandra works but her hours are somewhat limited due to the fact that her four year old son, Johnny, is Autistic and requires much of her time. She has roots in Lowell and has an uncle living nearby who pitches in when she needs help.
“My main priority is making sure the rent is paid and the boys have a roof over their head” says Sandra. “I am going back to college and trying to get back into the working world. I want a better life for all of us.”
“Having a Habitat home will remove the stress of having to live in poor conditions and not knowing if we will be forced to leave. A new home will enable us to go to bed at night and know we are safe and secure. We are all so thankful for being chosen as a partner family and will do whatever is needed to fulfill this dream” says Sandra.
The Pol Family – 51 Rock Street Lowell
Lorna Pol is a current resident of Lowell and she and her three daughters are in need of a home. The Pols are currently living in a very rundown, two family home in Lowell. The current owner has let the building deteriorate and it is the worst-kept building on the block.
The rental unit where the Pols were living was sold just after finding out they were chosen to be a Habitat partner Family. The Pols have left the 2 bedroom apartment where the girls Jennifer (16) and Samantha (19) shared one bedroom and Benita (21) had the second bedroom. Lorna slept on a daybed in the living room. Neither of the bedrooms had a closet and it was difficult to find space to store their belonging.
The kitchen offered very few amenities. The refrigerator was fairly new, but the sink was located behind the kitchen wall, To make matters worse, the oven did not work so there was not an opportunity to fill the home with the smell of fresh baked cookies. With the home sold, Lorna and her girls are sharing a room in her brothers apartment.
Lorna is looking forward to the day she will be able to leave behind living in cramped quarters, bathrooms with mold and plastic over windows. The knowledge of having a safe, decent, energy efficient home will be a dream come true. A place to call home not just a place to survive.
“It has been a life-long dream to own a house to have all my children together. It was a dream that didn’t seem possible. Habitat made it possible for me and I am very thankful for them.” Lorna.
Meet the Jordan Family – 53 Rock Street Lowell
About 5 years ago life changed for the worst for Nadine Jordan. She lost her job and trying to raise three boys on unemployment was tough. During that same time her son, Darren, who was 11yrs old at the time, was hit by a car and his left leg and arm were broken. He has since healed but Nadine remembers climbing up flights of stairs in the apartment building, helping her son who was about the same size as her and knowing she had to find a way to keep going.
Life did not get any easier for the Jordan family. Nadine’s allergies became worse due to her living conditions and having a landlord who wasn’t fixing things. The apartment was leaking, and in the winter the heat would just turn off due to a broken furnace. Currently, the roof needs repairs and the list goes on.
Nadine could have moved but her rent was only $800/month for a 3 bedroom. To move elsewhere she would have to pay $1500/month with no guarantee that the rent would stay that way. During that time, every night she remembers when the children laid their heads down for bed, she had them say their prayers. She too would pray with her children and ask God to help her find a job and get a house.
Then two years ago things started to look up. Nadine found a job but still didn’t make enough to afford to buy a house. It was at this time she heard about Habitat. Nadine’s mother called and read out loud the article she found in the newspaper. Her mother said, “I will be at your house to pick you up”. Nadine does not even remember if she was able to say anything because her mother hung up so quickly. “When I got in my mother’s car she told me this is your time!” said Nadine.
“Habitat has provided more to me than just a home. My children will have a house, stability, and confidence knowing that they live in a home. Plus we are very thankful that there are people out there who help lift people up in need. Thank You!” Nadine
The Hebert/Miranda Family – 55 Rock Street Lowell
The apartment they are currently living in is small and in a rough neighborhood. There is no back yard – not even a patch of grass for the children to play on. Valene is fortunate to have her mother live in the next town over. Often times Valene will bring the children over to her moms to visit so that she can let them run around and play outside for a while to run off some of the energy all children have.
Valene and Jim live in a second floor apartment. College students live on the floor above them, so it is not always the quietest place to be raising 4 small children. Valene and Jim’s children range in age 4, 3, 2 years and a 2 month old.
Living on the second floor creates its own challenges. Valene is not able to leave the children for a moment in her neighborhood. If she has them in the car and forgets something in the house she either unbuckles them all or goes without whatever it was.
Never in her wildest dreams did Valene think she would own a home. She came from a low income family and her family always rented. When she married, they talked about owning a house. But, after her divorce, that dream simply vanished. Now with 4 children, a new partner, and continuing on with her education, her dream is coming true.
“I am so grateful that I will own a home and I am overjoyed to hear my children say they have a real home now.” Valene