Home for the holidays
Eight-year-old Sammi Livingston zoomed from room to room in her new home Sunday, happy to show it off to friends and strangers alike.
Sammi and her mother, Bobbi Livingston, are the proud owners of Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley's latest house. They hosted a housewarming party at the home along Constitution Boulevard.
Sammi and Bobbi, who had been living with friends for most of the past year, now have three bedrooms, a beautiful backyard and a large front porch to call their own, thanks to Habitat and its volunteers who built the home in nine months.
The Rev. W. James Legge, pastor of Bull Creek Presbyterian Church and Habitat board president, said the Christmas season is an appropriate time to bless a new Habitat-built house. The search for a warm, safe place to live today is much like Joseph and Mary's search for a place to stay in Bethlehem, Legge said.
"We also note today how difficult it is to find simple, decent, safe, affordable places," Legge said.
To meet that need, Habitat for Humanity uses volunteers and donations to build and refurbish homes, which are then sold to low-income families who pay low-interest mortagages.
Bobbi Livingston owned a home with her former husband, but rented a two-bedroom apartment after they were divorced. She lost the lease to that home in March and had been staying with friends.
She decided to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and began working on the house in Arnold when other volunteers suggested she apply to get the house. Livingston works at Thermo Twin Windows in Oakmont and thought she made too much money to qualify, but she was wrong.
Once she was accepted as the prospective homeowner, Livingston had just a few months to put in the required 350 hours of "sweat equity" to get the house.
"I came down here every night after work and helped," she said. "I worked every weekend here."
The task was exhausting, she said.
"There were a couple of times I told them I didn't think I could do it," Livingston said. "It was just so hard."
Dozens of other volunteers also spent numerous hours building the home. For example, Meghan Napoli and Alex Davis, Plum High School seniors and members of Youth United, did everything from framing the building to moving dirt in the yard to hammering nails.
"We learned a lot," Davis said. "For one thing, I can hang a picture in my bedroom now without asking my Dad for help."
Next year, Allegheny Valley Habitat plans to build three houses, which is more than it's ever built before, executive director Diane Belitskus said.
Who to callHow to contact Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley: