Alexa Aguilar comforts her grandmother, Luz Baigorria, who shed tears as "Bless This House" was sung during the beginning of the Johnson home dedication Saturday. Alexa's family is the recipient of Habitat for Humanity of Niles-Buchanan's new home this year. (Daily Star Photo/KATIE JOHNSON)
Alexa Aguilar comforts her grandmother, Luz Baigorria, who shed tears as "Bless This House" was sung during the beginning of the Johnson home dedication Saturday. Alexa's family is the recipient of Habitat for Humanity of Niles-Buchanan's new home this year. (Daily Star Photo/KATIE JOHNSON)

Archived Story

Family handed keys to new future

Published 10:51am Monday, December 7, 2009

By KATIE JOHNSON
Niles Daily Star

Anthony Aguilar says the best thing about having his own bedroom will be to “stretch out my arms.”

He and his siblings, Alexa and Aidan, will now have their own home for “the first time in forever” thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Nile-Buchanan.

The children and their mother, Stephanie Johnson, received the keys to a new future at 325 Hill St. during a dedication ceremony Saturday morning. HFH, a “housing ministry,” builds a home each year for a family in need. Volunteers as well as the family pitch in to build the home.

Alexa said their current residence at great-grandmother Edith Schneck’s home is “cramped.” The family of four has 2 1/2 bedrooms; the mother sleeps in the living room.

Johnson, a single mother, said Schneck is in a nursing home, and they are living in her house “because it’s affordable.”

The family applied two consecutive years for a house, and were turned down the first year. Construction on the one-story home began at the end of August. All three kids – students at Brandywine schools – their relatives, friends and volunteers from the community helped construct the house from the ground up, from building the walls to installing light fixtures. They expect to move in very soon, when the finishing touches are completed.
“I’ve worked on a lot of other Habitats … the structures we work on are well-built,” HFH president Joan Schmidt explained.
“This is quite a blessing in our community,” said the Rev. Edward Slate, of Wesley United Methodist Church. Most of the volunteers came from his congregation. Dozens of people would help out each Saturday, and he would say prayers with the family every week.

“It’s a great mission in our church,” Slate said. “The number (of volunteers) just keeps growing all the time.

“I’m not mechanical, but I can say a prayer,” he said with a laugh.
Wesley and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Ladies Aid contributed gift baskets containing cleaning supplies and other home essentials and a Christmas wreath. Doris Brewer, board member of HFH, choked up as she presented a Bible to the family.

HFH of Niles-Buchanan emphasizes it is a non-paid, Christian-based non-profit, and included prayers and religious songs in its dedication, including “Bless This House,” “Blest Be the Tie that Binds” and “Surely the Presence,” during which the Johnson family lighted candles.

“In late August we had nothing but a hole,” construction manager Dick McCreedy said. “Here we are December 5, almost ready to move in.”

“There really aren’t any words to express how happy I am,” Johnson said. “I have experienced love I’ve never felt before.”

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