Princeton University volunteers help build Habitat for Humanity homes

Monday, Jun 18, 2018
by Gwen McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Seven families will soon be moving into new homes in Trenton, New Jersey, thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Burlington County and Greater Trenton-Princeton and hundreds of volunteers from across the region, including students, faculty and staff from Princeton University.

On Friday, June 15, families, volunteers, contractors, builders, corporate supporters, state and local politicians, and Habitat for Humanity leaders gathered for a dedication of the homes on North Clinton Avenue in Trenton.

“Thanks to all of you, seven families now have a place to call home,” said Lori Leonard, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity of Burlington County and Greater Trenton-Princeton. “Together the families have put in 200 hours of sweat-equity hours building their homes and volunteering in the community, on top of holding multiple jobs, taking care of children and family members, and continuing their education. By the end of the month each family will be able to move into their new home.”

Projects like this one not only benefit families, but also help to rejuvenate the city as well, Leonard added. “Homes like these increase community,” she said. “They really do make a difference. It starts with revitalizing this street and builds from here.”

Throughout the process of building the homes, the Pace Center for Civic Engagement at Princeton University helped facilitate numerous opportunities for students, staff and faculty to take part.

Habitat for Humanity Volunteers in Trenton, NJ

Photo by Sarah Schneider '20 - Students help at the Habitat for Humanity site in Trenton as part of Breakout Local over fall break in 2016. 

Students with the Student Volunteers Council Habitat for Humanity service project contributed regularly throughout the academic year. First-year students entering the University helped out as part of Community Action. Students staying on campus during fall or spring break joined the effort through Breakout Local. Student-athletes participated as part of the Princeton Varsity Club’s Weapons of Mass Construction program. And Princeton staff and faculty had the opportunity to serve with their families and friends as part of Month of Service.

At the dedication, Habitat for Humanity presented each family with ceremonial gifts — salt for spice, a candle so there will be no darkness, bread as a symbol of hope, a welcome mat as a symbol of family and friends, and a potted plant so the new homes will be places of beauty and growth — along with the keys to their new homes.

Homeowners expressed gratitude and thanks for everyone who helped them build their homes and supported them along their journeys.

“It all started in 2014 when this was just a lot and blueprints,” said Chanell Hardy-Taylor, one of the new homeowners. “This past year, it really sped up. I am just so full, so overwhelmed, and so thankful for the whole process — the homeowners classes, the builds, everything. We now have something to call ours.”

Fellow new homeowner Asia Edwards and her 7-year-old daughter London Womack agreed. “I’m just so excited,” Edwards said. “Thanks to the builders, the staff, everybody. And I especially want to thank my family. Without them I don’t know where I’d be.”

“I’m really excited about my room,” Womack added. “And the kitchen is giant.”