It was a 35th birthday Amy Maracle will never forget.
The mother of Kaylynn, 8, and Cameron, 4, moved into her new Habitat For Humanity home at 1222 Ridge Road in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory Thursday morning.
It was a home she has put 500 hours of “sweat equity” into and will be the first home for her young son. The three have been living across the street with her parents, Terry and Linda Bernhardt.
Habitat For Humanity held a special event for the family with around 100 people in attendance in front of the new home where a makeshift tent was erected for the crowd to cut cold winds on a blustery day on the reserve.
The crowd included 16 Grade 3 Quinte Mohawk School students from Kaylynn’s class. Their appearance surprised the family.
“Kaylynn said all the kids got a trip form, but she didn’t,” said Maracle. When her classmates arrived, Maracle admitted she and her daughter cried.
When interviewed by The Intelligencer last October, Maracle was a personal support worker student at Kingston Learning Centre. Since that time she has graduated from the course and when asked what has changed since her initial interview, while in a bedroom of the new family home, she put out her arms and exclaimed “this!”
Like her neighbour, April Green, who moved into her new Habitat home at 1215 Ridge Road in December, Maracle’s home is unfurnished. Maracle said she and her family will be slowly moving their furnishings into the beautiful home over the weekend.
Maracle was effusive in her praise of the community in Tyendinaga for its continued support for the Habitat homes and said, in October: “That’s what the reserve is good for – people helping others.”
Before officially moving in, the home was “smudged” by Pauline Maracle, a ceremony that purifies and cleanses the home for its new occupants.
Habitat is more than just about the builds. Habitat executive director Bob Clute pointed to the number of volunteers at the ReStore in Belleville and the difference that work makes in their lives.
“They (the volunteers) look forward to coming because that’s where their friends are,” said Clute, during an interview in October.
Habitat for Humanity officials are hoping for a little more cash to support what’s planned to be a very ambitious year.
“We’re going to be building four homes in Quinte West on Leopold Street,” Clute said Wednesday.
“It’s our most aggressive build plan that we’ve done to date.”
Clute spoke in Belleville before Hastings County’s community and human services committee saying it’s a big step for an organization which has historically built about one house per year for a family in need. It’s built 19 homes in the last 20 years.
This year the charity will spend $150,000 on the projects, he said. Of that, $117,000 has been secured.
Habitat has five groups of people targeted when choosing new homeowners: single moms (by far, the largest group); Indigenous and Aboriginal people; military veterans; new Canadians (Clute said about 35,000 newcomers arrive to the country every year with nothing); and families with disabilities.
The need has never been greater, said Clute, and the organization’s biggest challenge is financial – raising funds to buy materials.