Josephine Peterson, a single mother, New York City corrections officer and soon-to-be homeowner, fought back tears as she recalled watching the combined efforts of Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk and AvalonBay build her new house in Bellport in just five days this week.
“When I came Monday it was just a slab, just a little box made of concrete, that’s it,” Peterson said at the work site on a hot-and-sticky Thursday. “So I said, ‘Uh ok, so my house is supposed to be built from this?’ Then they started building and I saw the frames go up and it was very emotional because it’s a beautiful thing.”
The house being built on Michigan Avenue is one of Long Island’s contributions to a nationwide blitz build project sponsored by Habitat for Humanity. The building blitz is taking place in 24 states throughout the month of June.
Peterson, who currently lives in Coram with her 13-year-old twin daughters, Amani and Emani, underwent a selective application process. It took into account the family’s need for a house, income and willingness to become partners with Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk.
“I was so happy that she was selected,” said Les Scheinfeld, associate director of the nonprofit’s local chapter. “She couldn’t have been more perfect. Perfect homeowner, single mom, twin girls who are going to go to high school where she went to high school, the Rikers Island job as corrections officer, this tough exterior and this emotional faithful woman who was just… you know she said she prayed for this.”
The five-day blitz was fast-paced despite the heat wave that hit LI this week. The only setback was that the Spackle took longer to dry in the heat and humidity. But there was more than enough help to compensate.
“This is different because it’s not our volunteers that are building the home, it’s the community of contractors, the community of suppliers, that all came together because AvalonBay asked them to,” said Scheinfeld. “Everything that is being put into this house is being donated by their partners.”
AvalonBay expects that the house will be finished by Friday evening. The dedication ceremony, during which Peterson will be presented with the keys to her new home, is scheduled for Monday.
“It’s just been a whirlwind situation and I still don’t know what I did to deserve all of this, but whatever it is, it must be something good,” Peterson said.
The feeling was mutual between Peterson and the construction crew.
“For me, what makes it emotional is when you’re handing the keys over for their new home and it is something they are so thankful for,” said Chris Capece, development director of AvalonBay Long Island. “We’re all Long Islanders and this is a way to contribute to someone in need of a home.”