Although most people have heard of Habitat for Humanity, they may not know specific and accurate information about the nonprofit organization. Deborah O’Mara, the Family Services Manager at the Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH), shares that one of the biggest misconceptions is that they give away houses for free; however, this is not the case. GSHFH is just one of 16 Habitat affiliates across the state of Massachusetts that focuses on assisting lower-income families by offering the opportunity to obtain their own home with an affordable mortgage. The families help to build their houses -- and repair them over time -- alongside volunteers and professionals who teach them the necessary skills. (The construction supervisors always make certain that everything is completed according to code.) The partnership of all of these groups not only creates the actual homes, but also additional opportunities for the residents, as well as future generations.
The organization’s mission is to change lives for the better by providing stability in a new, safe, and decent place in which to live and raise a family.
GSHFH, located in West Springfield, was established in 1987. They serve qualifying residents in Hampden County. They typically build two or three houses annually, and according to Deborah, they also “complete a small number of home repair projects as funding allows” for families in need who may have difficulties maintaining their houses due to aging or health issues.
One such couple in Agawam recently reached out to GSHFH. Mariann is the caretaker for her husband, who has suffered with Alzheimer’s for the past four years. Getting around is a challenge. She shares, “I was so unsure of how to take him down the stairs. If he falls, I’d go with him.” Mariann received the welcome news that Habitat could provide assistance through the home preservation program. Qualifying homeowners can receive affordable microloans for help with general home repairs, home weatherization, landscaping, and accessibility modifications. GSHFH partnered with Able Home Accessibility, Inc. to build a ramp on the couple’s house. Deborah says that partnerships such as these are what make these projects possible. She adds that Able Home Accessibility “was willing to work with us. They were happy to help a family, and they did a wonderful job.”
Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity has a number of ways that people can volunteer to help. Deborah says, “We can’t do what we do without volunteers.” There are opportunities for individuals, youth organizations, schools, and corporations to assist the organization. Please visit HabitatSpringfield.org to learn more or call 413.739.5503 to speak with a volunteer specialist.