September 21, 2009

Bucknell senior Anne Barnard presents a mailbox and other gifts to the Virginia and Tito Lopez

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By Julia Ferrante

NEW COLUMBIA, Pa. — Dozens of students from Bucknell and Susquehanna universities, community volunteers, family and friends came together Saturday, Sept. 19, to dedicate a new Habitat for Humanity home to a local family.

Alberto "Tito" Lopez, a service advisor at a local car dealership; his wife, Virginia; and their children, Angela, 4, and Nathaniel, 1, will begin moving into their new home this week as Union-Snyder Habitat for Humanity's 17th partner family.   

"We very much appreciate your giving us this opportunity to live in this house," Tito Lopez said during Saturday's dedication ceremony, which was held at the Lopez home off New Columbia Road. "Our family was growing, and we were looking for a place. Habitat was our first and last stop. We're going to give it a shot and I think we will make this work."

The Bucknell and Susquehanna university Habitat chapters, which work in partnership with the Union-Snyder Habitat for Humanity affiliate, raised $20,000 toward the cost of the Lopez home and served as the home sponsors. The university chapters for years had an informal competition to raise funds for Habitat but joined forces this year to collect more money more quickly, said Eric Lassahn, a Union-Snyder Habitat board member and campus liaison.

The students shared fundraising ideas such as selling candy apples in the fall and delivering door hangers to local homes before Halloween asking for donations to Habitat. They also served on family selection, family support, construction and fundraising committees with local affiliate volunteers.

Hannah Zachary, a Bucknell sophomore who served on the family selection committee, said at the dedication that the Lopezes are "some of the friendliest and most genuine people I've met."

"They were dedicated and adamant about making this work," she said. "I saw Tito at every build and he was pounding nails faster than any of the students."

Habitat's goal is to fulfill the dream of home ownership with simple, basic homes for families in need, said Cherie King, president of the Union-Snyder Habitat affiliate. Families must be able to pay a no-interest mortgage and commit to 250 hours of "sweat equity," either by helping with construction of their own home or working on future affiliate projects. They also must complete a home ownership course.

Volunteers began constructing the 1,000-square-foot, three-bedroom ranch-style home in March.

It costs about $80,000 to build a Habitat home. The Lopez family, which was selected as a partner family among 40 interested families and eight applicants, will pay back Habitat through an interest-free mortgage. The payments will be put into the Fund for Humanity to be used for future home construction.

King, the Union-Snyder Habitat president, commended the students for their dedication.

"They've helped perfect strangers achieve the American dream of home ownership," she said.

Union County Commissioner John Mathias, speaking at the dedication, noted that the students raised 25 percent of the cost of the home.

"These young men and women come and live among us for a brief time and they make a difference that will last a lifetime," he said.

Kenny Lakes, president of the SU Habitat chapter, presented the Lopez family with four gifts: "Flowers, so you will always have beauty in your home. Bread so you will never go hungry. Salt so you will always have flavor in your home, and candles so you will always have light."

Habitat volunteers and the Rev. MacKenzie Scott, the Lopez family's pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lewisburg, also presented the family with a Bible, a mailbox, a scrapbook, a homeowners' manual and a payment folder during the dedication ceremony.

Contact: Division of Communications

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