Unsung Hero Elorna Pierre: Habitat for Humanity Volunteer

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BY BARRY WARNER

 Elorna Pierre is president of the Habitat for Humanity chapter at Rockland Community College. Habitat builds homes with the sweat equity of family partner homeowners who work side-by-side with volunteers.
Elorna Pierre is president of the Habitat for Humanity chapter at Rockland Community College. Habitat builds homes with the sweat equity of family partner homeowners who work side-by-side with volunteers.

Habitat for Humanity of Rockland is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, an ecumenical Christian housing ministry. The organization is committed to providing decent and affordable housing for local low-income earning families.

Michael VerSchneider, Catholic Campus Minister and advisor to the Rockland Community College Habitat for Humanity club said, “Elorna Pierre has done an excellent job of attracting students to the mission of the ministry, which is building decent places to live for families in need. She has the ability to take the initiative to be a leader, has a positive attitude, a strong sense of team and is goal-oriented. She is training some members of the club to become leaders themselves. She went along with the RCC group to New Orleans to help build homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.”

This Habitat for Humanity house is located on Partition Street in the Village of Haverstraw. Professional contractors build the exterior shell to code and the volunteers do the interior construction.
This Habitat for Humanity house is located on Partition Street in the Village of Haverstraw. Professional contractors build the exterior shell to code and the volunteers do the interior construction.

Local projects include new homes built in Spring Valley, Hillburn and Homes for Heroes, a housing project for disabled veterans in Tappan. Currently, a new home is being built on Partition Street in the Village of Haverstraw. Volunteers working on the house include RCC students, contractors and carpenters who have volunteered their time. There is no formal orientation for volunteers, but there is a short safety briefing. They are asked to bring a flexible attitude and a willingness to participate in the day’s task. Some of the activities, under supervision by the contractors, may include framing, hanging drywall, painting, siding, site cleanup and landscaping. Items that are especially useful to be brought along to the site by the volunteers include tool belts, hammers, measuring tapes and pencils.

Elorna Pierre said, “I am the president of the RCC Habitat for Humanity Club and run the meetings every Tuesday from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Twice a month, the volunteers in the club put on their tool belts and go to the housing site in the Village of Haverstraw on Partition Street to work under the supervision of the contractors. I am a pre-med student and want to become a doctor. My mother had cancer and passed away, so I want to do research to find a cure. Serving in the club as an officer has been therapeutic for me at this difficult time. Also, the club raises money for traveling expenses by holding bake sales.”

According to the website www.habitat.org home ownership is a key component of the Habitat for Humanity model. Habitat provides a ‘hand up, not a hand out’, meaning that there is an active partnership with Habitat homeowners. Partner families are selected based on need for housing, ability to repay the loan and willingness to dedicate mandatory sweat equity. A partner family dedicates at least 500 hours towards construction of their own home or other habitat projects.

Requirements for Habitat homeowners include:

  1. Meeting HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) established household income guidelines.
  2. Providing one percent cash down payment.
  3. Having no account in collection, no charge-offs or unsatisfied public records.
  4. No bankruptcies in the last three years.
  5. Being a first-time homeowner.

Sweat equity is not a form of payment, but an opportunity to work alongside volunteers who give their time to bring to life a family’s dream of owning a home. Sweat equity can take many forms for partner families working with Habitat. It can mean construction work on their home or on a home of another family or cleaning up the building site. Homeowner classes about learning how to manage a home or finances also count as sweat equity. Families invest their time in the long-term success on their home ownership. Throughout the process of purchasing their home, Habitat partner families can earn sweat equity credit as they learn about their mortgage, insurance, maintenance and safety.

For additional information about the RCC Habitat for Humanity club contact Catholic Campus Minister Michael VerSchneider at mverschn@sunyrockland.edu or call 845-574-4531.

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