By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – The moment Carmen Soto returned home with her Sweat Equity Log, there was only one thing she wanted to do.
She immediately jotted down two words: “Hope” and “Faith” on the cover of the journal used to record all of her hours dedicated to working on a Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh Home. The place where she learned and put to practice priceless building skills, 324 Robinson Avenue, turned out to be the very home she now owns. Meanwhile, those two words on her log were to be her guiding forces throughout her unforgettable Habitat journey.
Filled with boundless positive energy, an unwavering work ethic and intense passion for family, Soto officially realized her home ownership dream last Tuesday afternoon when the special Habitat Newburgh ReStore home was officially dedicated, giving it the distinction of number 97 for the Newburgh Habitat organization. Carmen, along with her son Alfredo and daughter Cassandra, will soon move into the beautiful new home, located across the street from Newburgh Free Academy’s North Campus and a place Carmen could not be more proud, grateful and will now call her own.
“Working on this house was so memorable; I will never forget being able to build my own home and learning so much,” said an emotional Soto, “While working on this home, I wasn’t even sure it was going to be the one I would have, but ever since learning it was and after today, the feelings I have are just so indescribable.”
All who encounter Soto are struck by her genuine appreciation, along with a tireless work ethic, filled with constant joy. Cliff Gaw, Habitat Newburgh Restore Manager, detected Soto’s specialness while she worked at his 38 South Plank Road store as part of her Habitat experience.
“I saw what she was made of, working so hard and with such joy,” said Gaw, who offered Soto symbolic gifts of bread (to never know hunger), honey (sweetness), salt (lives have flavor) and a broom (to sweep troubles out the door) at the dedication.
As the 97th Habitat Newburgh homeowner, Soto joins a long, impressive list of families contributing to the progress, overall beautification and resurgence of the City of Newburgh through the life-changing vehicle of a “hand-up,” rather than a “hand-out.” The resounding efforts of the popular volunteer organization have attracted the attention of many, including local politicians. Two were on hand at Soto’s home dedication.
“Today means a lot; it is a testament to the revitalization of our City and its commitment to move farther,” said City of Newburgh Mayor, Torrance Harvey.
Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson was also on hand as a strong advocate for Habitat, witnessing its marked imprint on the City of Newburgh.
“Each new Habitat home shows progress and one more step forward,” affirmed Jacobson.
It was that potent momentum that Deke Spierling, Habitat Newburgh Board President, spoke of as he provided the House Blessing.
“The community of volunteers in Newburgh is diverse, but we come together along a wide spectrum, despite our sometimes differing points of view,” said Spierling. “As a community, by God’s action, we at Habitat are able to build hope and joy, and we bless this new home; may the gifts of labor, love and prayers be infused into this new space.”
One look at Carmen Soto and her family, and it is apparent that hope, joy and love are in full bloom. Gratitude is written all over their faces and resides in their hearts as well.
“This home is just so, so wonderful, and I’m so blessed to have it,” said a teary-eyed Soto.
“Thank you so very much for blessing me with my dream.” Surveying the exterior of her home and smiling wide, she added, “I just might live here forever.”