Habitat volunteers raise homes in Jamaica

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Dozens of community volunteers and...

By Betsy Scheinbart

Habitat for Humanity volunteers have started construction on two single-family homes in Jamaica and are set to build four more this summer after receiving approval for the project last week from Community Board 12.

Dozens of community volunteers and Goldman Sachs employees turned out last Thursday and Friday to build the frames of two adjoining townhouses on 110th Avenue at 159th Street in Jamaica.

The volunteers started with only a concrete foundation Thursday morning and by Friday had the strong beginnings of walls and a roof.

“I think it was a wonderful experience,” said Juanita Simmons, a volunteer from Goldman Sachs who lives in Queens Village. “It was just a floor when we started yesterday and today I was on the roof, nailing.”

Her co-worker, Leon Chervinski from Long Island, said his fourth time volunteering with Habitat “was wonderful. We accomplished a lot.”

The two homes should be completed by September if weather permits, said Rosemarie Whaley, a community organizer and representative of Habitat for Humanity.

Community Board 12 voted unanimously in favor of the project, which also includes homes at 110th Avenue and Union Hall Street and 150th Avenue and 170th Street.

“They are doing a great job, not only in this country but overseas as well,” Reuben Holder, the board’s Land Use Committee chairman, told the community board April 18. “Please approve their request to building on these properties.”

Habitat for Humanity-New York City is an affiliate of Habitat International. Habitat-NYC was founded in 1984 with the help of former President Jimmy Carter.

Most of the volunteers working in Jamaica did not have any previous experience building houses, Whaley said. They are assigned to a certain task in the morning and learn as they work.

“I am learning stuff which I can use at home,” said Roger Campbell, a Queens Village resident and volunteer with the St. Albans Congregational Church. “It is my intent to go out each and every year and get my friends involved.”

His wife, Judith Campbell, was working alongside him Friday. “It is really fulfilling to be helping those who are in need,” she said.

Volunteers will change throughout the course of the project, and several southeast Queens churches have signed up to lend a hand along with Goldman Sachs, the Columbia School of Architecture and several New York City building unions.

“Our April Raising the Roof Blitz Build is a truly unique project for Habitat,” said Roland Lewis, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity-NYC.

“The opportunity to create two new wood frame houses will not only make a great impact on the lives of the deserving families,” Lewis said, “in the spirit of a barn raising, it will give people the chance to see how a community can come together to build a house right before their eyes.”

A single mother and her two teenage daughters have been selected to occupy one of the homes under construction, and a second family will be selected shortly.

These families will work alongside volunteers on theirs and other’s homes, constructing timber frames, applying exterior sheathing, installing roof shingles and the final touches to interior.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity-NYC, call 246-5656.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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