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  • Writer's pictureGreater Springfield Habitat for Humanity

GSHFH celebrates 2 families at double dedication event

On July 18, the City of Holyoke and Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH) communities celebrated two new partner families at the build site of their future homes. Construction is expected to finish this summer with the families closing on the homes just in time for the new school year. The double dedication ceremony attracted approximately 50 guests, including the partner families’ friends and loved ones, city officials, individual and corporate volunteers, and donors.

Deborah O’Mara, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity Family Services manager who retired in late July, presents symbolic front door keys to soon-to-be homeowner Jennifer on July 18 as her son looks on.

Construction for the two homes at 117 and 113 Jackson Street began in summer 2021 are possible through Greater Springfield Habitat’s partnership with Holyoke Housing Authority, the City of Holyoke Office of Community Development, and the Community Act Preservation Committee.

“The homes we dedicate this morning are glass and wood monuments to our belief in community, our belief in neighborhoods, and our belief in neighbors, as well as our belief of families that have children,” said Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia. “Many of you have heard the slogan, ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Yes, that’s true, but first you have to have a village. Habitat for Humanity is a village builder.

“I have often told people, for as long as I have grown up and lived in Holyoke, I have realized Holyoke is a place a hope and opportunity. My family benefitted from Holyoke’s compassion,” said Mayor Garcia. “What we are witnessing behind us today and beyond is Holyoke’s compassion and action.”

The two families were chosen based on need for safe, adequate, and affordable housing; a willingness to partner with GSHFH and perform “sweat equity,” time spent helping to build their home along side Habitat volunteers and construction staff. The families also showed an ability to afford a mortgage. Jennifer and Juan and Ireydiza learned of their acceptance into the homeownership program in November 2021.

“These families are amazing,” said Deborah O’Mara, GSHFH Family Services manager, who retired at the end of July and worked closely with the families. “They have been out every weekend working and Juan has been out during the week. They’re fantastic. We wouldn’t be in the place we’re in right now without their help.”

Single mother Jennifer and her three teenage boys will move into the three-bedroom, two-story home at 117 Jackson St, the house that’s farther along in construction. Since divorcing her abusive husband, Jennifer has strived for a safe and decent affordable home. Within her current apartment, her two youngest sons share a bedroom and bed and neighborhood they live in is dangerous – has several vacant buildings, homeless people, drugs, and vehicles are frequently vandalized.

“Thank you to Habitat for Humanity for choosing our family to have this huge blessing,” said Jennifer whose eyes welled with tears. “This means a lot to us. We’ve been through a lot. Finally, we get to realize our dream because of Habitat … We look forward to making this house a home.”

Ireydiza and Juan have two young children and will soon move into the neighboring house at 113 Jackson St. Just four years ago, the family was happy, healthy, and dreaming of buying their first home. Then tragedy struck. A workplace injury disabled Juan, the breadwinner. Ireydiza left school to be the sole earner. The family is eager to move forward and out of the apartment, which in winter is cold in the living room and master bedroom.

“I know we all experience unexpected hardships in our life and these times are when our trust in God is tested. After my stroke and losing my career, my family and I got tested. I didn’t think getting a house for them would be possible,” said Juan. “Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, y’all are making our dream come true. I believe we all have a purpose in life and some of you are definitely doing what God has planned for y’all. Not only do you build houses and sell them at affordable prices, but you also save lives through this program. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for giving us the opportunity to be homeowners.”

To learn more about the homeownership program, go to

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