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Habitat For Humanity Dedicates Pittsfield Duplex to Longtime Friends
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
06:56AM / Sunday, July 31, 2022
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Carolyn Parris is moving into her new home, a duplex on Madison Avenue, thanks to Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity. This is a new beginning for her and her family she said.

Geneva Samuel is moving into the other side of the duplex. The two women, longtime friends, worked with Habitat and were able to get low interest loans.

The two-bedroom condos were built on donated land.

Parris and Samuel take possession of their condos on Saturday morning.

The new homeowners pose with Berkshire United Way President and CEO Tom Bernard and Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity CEO Carolyn Valli.

The new home owners and Habitat volunteers celebrate on Saturday. The project had been delayed because of the pandemic and related supply chain issues.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Two longtime friends were given the keys to new homes from the Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity on Saturday.

Carolyn Parris and Geneva Samuel now reside in a freshly built duplex at 125 and 127 Madison Ave. with their children after working alongside volunteers over the past few years to build it.  

Originally from New York City, they have known each other for about 30 years and came to Berkshire County for a more peaceful life. They previously lived in insufficient housing in Pittsfield and now own two-bedroom condominiums with an affordable mortgage thanks to the nonprofit.

"Everything about this place to me is destiny," Parris said at a dedication ceremony. "Everything about this place is a new beginning."

Samuel's son Syphear is a part of the AmeriCorps program and put his handyman skills to work on the home. He said it was the best experience and showed him what he was capable of doing to help others.

"You all are like a big family to me," his mother said to the team.

Habitat's homeownership program empowers people with 40 percent to 70 percent of the area median income to become homebuyers through financial coaching, homebuyer training, and "sweat equity."  Applicants contribute labor to the build and are able to purchase the property for an affordable price.

The organization also works with third-party lenders to offer low-interest rates and down payments on mortgage packages.

Each condo was appraised at $155,000 and the owners are paying on 80 percent of that value. The monthly payment reportedly comes out to less than they would be paying in an inefficient rental with high utility costs.

The units are equipped with efficient utilities — including a donated washer and dryer — and a basement that can be transformed into a third bedroom. The land was also donated.

The organization was started in 1976 and has served more 300,000 families worldwide. Habitat has served 41 families in Berkshire County and has a number of projects ahead of them including four more homes on the West Side and 20 housing units in Housatonic.

"Today is not the end today is just the beginning," CEO Carolyn Valli said.

Parris' mentor pointed out that she has a full-time job and is a dean's list student at Berkshire Community College, calling her a "fiercely independent woman" with future plans and goals.

State Rep. Tricia Farley Bouvier has made it a tradition to give housing recipients gifts that symbolize a happy life in their new home. These include a loaf of bread so that the house does not go hungry, salt so that food may always have flavor, sparkling cider so that joy and prosperity reign forever, and flowers.

Farley-Bouvier was not able to attend the ceremony but the gifts were presented on her behalf.

Construction manager Brett Getchell pointed out that Miguel Estrella, who was killed by police in March, was a mentor for AmeriCorps and did a lot of work on the home. He added that the staff misses him greatly.

"He probably is looking down saying this is a very happy day for him," Getchell said.

"Because now we supply two more homes for you guys."

This dedication ceremony was delayed by the pandemic, supply chain issues, and labor shortages and the two families could not wait to get into their new homes.

There were "thank yous" all around at the event for the staff, volunteers, and various donors that make it happen.

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