Neighbors celebrate grand opening of two Habitat homes in Norwich

January 11 – NORWICH – With prayers said, tears shed, volunteers thanked, gifts presented and achievements applauded, 4-year-old Sinead Rojas cut the ribbon on the porch and helped his mother turn the key to open the door of his family. new house.

Inside, Sinead jumped up and down, sporting a broad smile, and ran down the hallway to his new room. His two older brothers, Jaiden, 13, and Daetrinn, 16, were cooler, as they studied their rooms and planned how to arrange their beds and furniture. Their mother, Siobhan Brannen from Norwich, laughed as she recalled working in the 90 degree summer heat helping to install the siding on the house.

Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut on Monday celebrated the double grand opening of the 97th and 98th homes the agency has completed in New London and Windham counties. The houses, connected by a shared utility shed, at 48 Sylvester Street and 47 Margerie Street, are part of a project to build 10 houses on what was previously vacant land between the two streets in the Greeneville section of the city.

More than 30 people gathered on Monday in Kerri Sosinski’s new kitchen. Sosinski, from Lebanon, and his children, Finnegan, 7, and Griffin, 11, will move in after their mortgage with Habitat closes.

Sosinski repeatedly held back tears as she thanked the dozens of people who helped her build the house and worked alongside her day and night.

“What better way to own a house than to build it,” said Sosinski, “because then you know the bones of your house. … The energy in this house is amazing, and I know it will be healing for Griffin, because it’s going to give us a chance to really have our own space and live our own lives. “

Griffin, who uses a wheelchair, has a terminal illness called Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare genetic disorder of metabolism. He undergoes multiple therapies and frequently sees doctors.

Sosinski said she looks forward to being in a neighborhood of caring families to provide a strong social network for herself and her children. She said future residents were already talking about creating a community garden and finding ways to “protect each other.” She is eager to help build the homes of her neighbors as well.

Sosinski has held several jobs over the years, most recently in restaurants and food service. But she was laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic and now attends the University of Connecticut to learn computer website design and coding.

Brannen, also a single mother, works as the Attendance and Extended Learning Coordinator for Norwich Public Schools. She began their Habitat application process in July 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

She put in far more hours building a Habitat home than necessary and even said she might like to get into the construction business – but not painting, she pointed out. “All my clothes are damaged.”

At Monday’s dedication, each family received a toolbox, a Bible, a handmade quilt donated by The United Methodist Church of Gales Ferry, and a handmade prayer shawl donated by the ‘Poquonnock Bridge Baptist Church in Groton.

Monday’s dedication was special for several reasons. It was the first time since 2009 that the local Habitat agency celebrated a double consecration of completed housing. And for Terri O’Rourke, CEO of Habitat, Monday marked her last day on the job as she retired. She handed over the keys to the agency to Sarah Lufler, the new CEO.

The City of Norwich became a partner in the project this fall, when city council approved a plan by City Manager John Salomone to allocate $ 1.2 million of the city’s US bailout grant to Habitat as part of the a partnership for affordable housing. Of this amount, $ 360,000 covered a lack of funding to complete the construction of 10 new houses on Sylvester and Margerie streets. Another $ 840,000 will fund the rehabilitation of approximately seven dilapidated homes that the city has taken or will acquire through tax foreclosures or abandonment.

Habitat is investing $ 1.56 million in non-municipal money in the Greeneville subdivision. O’Rourke said the subdivision is currently the only construction project underway by the agency in eastern Connecticut.

O’Rourke invoked on Monday what she called “hammer theology” to illustrate how people of various ethnicities, religious and political beliefs can work side by side with the common goal of building homes for families .

“Whatever difference it is that divides us,” said O’Rourke, “by putting a hammer and nails in your hands and using it to build a house like this, you’d be hard pressed to stay mad. about something while you’re standing next to someone. “

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