Faith, fellowship and two-by-fours are all combining in York to provide new, affordable housing for 14 families, while building community and residents and different faiths. A joint project between Habitat for Humanity and several area churches, including St. Joseph Parish, the Faith Build is bringing together congregations in order to work on Habitat projects. The 2019 build will not only provide housing for families in need, but it will also be one step in revitalizing the local community and building community between residents, Habitat and the various faith communities.
“Habitat believes that there are many partners, mostly the neighbors, that are required in order to have true community transformation. We’re not here just to make things look better or operate better; we’re here to create a sense of community between businesses, the individuals in this neighborhood and Habitat,” said Tammie Morris, executive director with York Habitat for Humanity. A Christian organization, Habitat is building more than homes through this project, Morris explained.
“In addition to building 14 new, affordable homes, we’re also going to help neighborhoods within a 15 block area, all around this build, with critical home repairs and aging-in-place services. So Habitat’s mission is not just to create new, safe, affordable housing, but to help preserve home ownership in the communities that we serve,” said Morris.
For Dwight Utz, a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in York and a committee member for the Faith Build, being involved in this project is just as much about building homes as it is building bridges.
“The important part for our parish and for me was this whole environment of ecumenical, interreligious collaboration. And to bring the community together so that we are focused on York and what we can do for the York community,” said Utz. “It’s really important, I think, to get all faiths to see what vision (we have) for our community and Habitat is what really brought this together.”
Utz explained that this project is a good example of what can happen when various people, and faith communities, work together.
“We have a very diversified committee as part of the Faith Build and to see, hear and listen to others in the faith community about how they see what we’re doing and what they see as our ability to come together as one, it really is amazing,” said Utz. “Where a faith community wasn’t as collaborative with the Catholic faith (in the past), now, we’re beginning those dialogues which hadn’t happened for a long time.”
One Board at a Time
The Chestnut Street Revitalization Project, which is the project for the Faith Build, was first thought of more than two years ago. The vacant lot was destroyed by fire more than 10 years ago, but by the end of 2021 or early 2022, it will be home to 14 families.
St. Joseph’s Parish has had 40 volunteers work at the site over four weekends, in addition to financially supporting the project.
“We took a special collection one Sunday and the parish community was very, very supportive,” said Utz. “St. Joe’s has been part of Habitat for Humanity for a very long time, but Father (Stephen Fernandes, OFM Cap) thought we needed to get more involved. I just hope this continues because it’s really a great project. I think you can see from what our team members and other faith communities are doing, it’s really special.”
In addition to St. Joseph’s, other faith communities involved with the project include LCBC, Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene, Church of the Open Door, Friendship Community Church, First Presbyterian Church, Zion Lutheran, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Living Word, JABEZ Ministries and Airville Community Churches.
To learn more about the Faith Build, please visit www.yorkhabitat.org/2019-faith-build.html.
By Rachel Bryson, M.S., The Catholic Witness