By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – “Just give a damn; it’s all we need, and thank you for all doing that.”
Matt Arbolino, the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh emphasized Saturday afternoon inside the Newburgh Armory Unity Center at a celebratory party where there were plenty of reasons to be joyful and grateful and so many reminders of how many truly do care about making the City of Newburgh a better place for all who inhabit and visit it.
Just moments earlier three Williams Street homeowners were given keys to their new homes. Included in that trio was the family of the 100th Habitat Newburgh Home, the Asuncion Galacio Family. The milestone house, 118 William Street, is part of a block where Habitat Newburgh is presently taking boarded up structures and developing them into gorgeous single-family houses. That magic was solidified on two other homes, 126 and 124, marking the 98 and 99 home tally. The completion of the three homes on Williams Street not only marks dynamic changes in that neighborhood, but speaks volumes about the potent effects of hardworking, united people with a laser focus on making positive things happen.
“You are the good in Newburgh,” continued Arbolino, as he scanned the large crowd of volunteers and guests inside the Armory. “My colleagues here at Habitat fight a war every day, and they are winning it.”
That battle for affordable home ownership as well as the revitalization of the City of Newburgh has been producing amazing results for 20 years. In addition to Saturday’s 100th home dedication, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh, along with the community, had further reason to be festive: The life-changing volunteer organization, founded in October, 1999, is celebrating its 20 year anniversary. For two decades, they have been offering a “hands-up,” providing families in need with priceless opportunities to fulfill their dreams of home ownership while gaining priceless home repair and renovation skills as well as fiscal management, while logging long, but extremely rewarding, “sweat equity” hours.
Gelacio Tlatelpa, who along with his mother Asuncion Lope, owns the symbolic 118 William Street house, steered her toward Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh when she was unable to find an affordable house to purchase. The magic that ensued once she was accepted to the program was instantaneous, leaving an indelible mark on all of their family members.
“We are all just so happy and excited; it is truly a blessing from God to have found and worked with Habitat,” said Tlatelpa, as he enjoyed the party inside the Armory Unity Center.
“I’m most looking forward to having a normal-sized room and something that I can finally say is my house and something I am proud of because I worked so hard for it; my mom is also so very happy, and we are all so proud.”
In addition to the three families, an assortment of Habitat volunteers, as well as family and friends, the crowd of well over 100 included many local politicians, among them City of Newburgh Mayor, Torrance Harvey as well as District Assemblyman, Jonathan Jacobson, both strong advocates for the Newburgh Habitat. In addition, Orange County Legislator, Kevindaryan Lujan, was also on hand. All smiles, Lujan, who grew up in the City of Newburgh, distinctly recalled taking part in one of Habitat Newburgh’s very first formal walks for a cause at age 12. The altruistic, potent group always struck a positive cord in him. Reminiscing about the 20 year 100 house massive life-altering journey the organization has undertaken, Lujan was touched by the emotion created by the historical afternoon.
“This is a huge milestone, as it shows how very far Newburgh has come; all these families here today want to be a part of it,” emphasized Lujan. “When you hear all of the people out there talking negatively about Newburgh, this right here, proves them wrong; it’s a symbol of where Newburgh is heading, that diversity is its biggest strength and that when we all work together, amazing things can get done.”