Central Westmoreland Habitat for Humanity nails a new system
Central Westmoreland Habitat for Humanity expected to finish renovating one house this year. Instead, it will finish two.
“We are significantly ahead of schedule, which we're really excited about,” Executive Director Daniel Giovannelli said.
The organization bought two small homes on Jefferson Street in Greensburg from the Westmoreland County Land Bank in December. Renovation began a short time later, and, thanks to volunteer efforts and donations, the work is expected to be completed by fall.
More volunteers than expected have turned out on weekends to help. Groups or companies will help out for a few days, while a few people show up almost every week, Giovannelli said.
The combined budget for both projects is about $100,000 — half in cash, half in donated materials — almost all of which has been raised already.
“That's taken some of the pressure off the timing, because we've been able to get the materials when we need them,” Giovannelli said.
The organization's rapid progress is a far cry from the situation a few years ago. The renovation of two houses in Jeannette had been stalled for years when the board decided it was time to make a change, board President Chuck Quiggle said.
“It wasn't moving forward very fast,” he said.
The board reorganized. The organization used to be staffed entirely by volunteers, but a small group of paid employees came on in early 2016, including Giovannelli.
“It just took off like a rocket,” Quiggle said.
The two houses in Jeannette were finished late last year. Last fall, Habitat for Humanity moved its ReStore thrift shop from a tiny garage in Jeannette to a large space on Outlet Way in Hempfield.
At first, the staff wasn't sure there would be enough merchandise to fill the 12,000-square-foot space, but donations have poured in, said volunteer Pat Santia.
“Now it's to the point we could use another 12,000 square feet,” she said.
Proceeds from the thrift store support the organization and its home-building efforts.
“It's for a good purpose. Everything stays local, everything goes right back into the houses,” Santia said.
A big objective has been raising awareness, Giovannelli said. Habitat for Humanity is a name with national clout, but for a long time many people didn't know the Westmoreland County chapter existed.
“We're the best-kept terrible secret,” Giovannelli said. “A big part of what we've been doing is getting on people's radar.”
Giovannelli hopes families will move into the Greensburg homes by Thanksgiving. The organization is still seeking applicants — low-income families who can put at least 360 hours of work into their new home and pay a zero-percent interest mortgage are eligible.
Meanwhile, Giovannelli already is looking toward the next project. He hopes Habitat for Humanity can renovate two homes in 2018. He's looking at properties on the east side of the county and seeking sponsors to fund the work.
Quiggle said he hopes the progress continues.
“The people who have supported us and the volunteers who have come have been great. We couldn't do it without them,” he said. “It just seems like it's moving along, not like a flood, but it's growing.”
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.