Wow – what a night!
The 2021 Habitat House Party, a two-night party comprised of a virtual event and an in-person gala, was a smashing success, ultimately raising more than $830,000 for hard-working New York families! And thanks to the generous underwriting of Doug and Claudia Morse, every single cent of the money raised will directly support Habitat NYC and Westchester’s programs, building and preserving stable, affordable, healthy housing across the five boroughs and Westchester County.
Night One of the House Party was a free, virtual celebration of our supporters and volunteers, open to any and all who wanted to learn about Habitat NYC and Westchester’s work. Our CEO Karen Haycox hosted the exciting program, which included a video celebrating our gala honorees – Doug and Claudia Morse, City Councilmember Margaret S. Chin, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, and M&T Bank – and interviews with two Habitat Young Professional members, Nicolle Lee and Angelina Fung. They discussed their ‘Habitat origin stories’ and why they volunteer with Habitat NYC and Westchester beyond the build site, as well as Francisco Alicandri, our Volunteer of the Year, a young man who spent his entire summer home from college volunteering at our Queens ReStore.
One of the more meaningful moments of the evening came when Karen spoke with Habitat Homebuyer Kendall H., who, despite the many challenges that the COVID pandemic has placed in front of him, remains dedicated to becoming a homeowner as soon as he can. Kendall was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic, but “turned it into a positive.” He continued to do his sweat equity hours, and has stayed in close touch with Habitat so that he can remain in our rigorous Home Purchase Program. “Every day I wake up, I ask myself, ‘How great can I be?’” Kendall told us. We think you’re pretty great, Kendall!
If you missed the virtual House Party, you can watch the whole thing here.
Then, on Wednesday October 27th, nearly 200 Habitat NYC and Westchester supporters, donors, volunteers and staff gathered at the beautiful Guastavino’s for good food, good friends and a good cause.
Reverend Doctor Lakeesha Walrond kicked off the night with a short invocation, and then CEO Karen Haycox took the stage to thank our guests and sponsors, to celebrate the more than 50 homes that Habitat NYC and Westchester sold in the past year, and to talk about our vision for what housing for a healthier New York really means. “A healthier New York is city and a region that strives for equity, that works to close the racial wealth gap and provides every New Yorker the opportunity to benefit from the strength, stability and self-determination that home ownership provides,” she said.
Karen then introduced Doug and Claudia Morse, two of the night’s honorees, and two of our most impactful and ardent supporters, who shared heartfelt words of thanks. “I’ve long felt that helping provide safe and affordable housing is one of the most impactful ways we can help improve the lives of our fellow New Yorkers. And clearly, the carnage that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused makes what we’re all doing that much more critical,” Doug said. “I can honestly say that my time as board member and Board Chair of this incredible organization has been one of the most extraordinary and rewarding experiences of my life.”
“There are few things as primary to a person, and a family’s, well-being than having a safe and secure place to call home” said Claudia. “Habitat’s work is so important and Doug and I are so grateful to all of you for supporting its mission to provide affordable housing for hard-working New Yorkers.”
Next to the podium was Sydney House Homeowner Ariana J., who shared her journey to homeownership. To Ariana, owning a home in the Bronx was more than a personal goal, it was a family legacy of Black female homeownership in a county, a country and a world where that lineage is far too rare. “When my grandmother immigrated from Jamaica, her first home was maybe 10 minutes from Sydney House. My mom, who is here tonight, lived two blocks away from that home, and now I am five blocks away,” Ariana said. She tried to buy a home on her own, but was “laughed at” by realtors, or shown properties in her budget in horrible condition. “I was close to giving up,” she said. “Then came Habitat.” Her mental health took a toll during the pandemic, working non-stop and rarely leaving her room.
But once Ariana moved into her new home at Sydney House, “everything expanded,” she said. “Sydney House has aided in making me a healthier person. Access to affordable homeownership does make us healthier as humans and as a city. Especially in a pandemic when health is the number one priority. Without this home, I wouldn’t be as healthy and as well as I am today and I am thankful for that.” Ariana brought the house down with her amazing story!
Then it was time to cap off the night with an intense live auction! Auctioneer drove up the bids on amazing experiences like a trip to wine country, a night at Yankee Stadium, tickets to Elton John’s final show in New York City. Then, it was time to really get the bids going. Our guests worked together to build a future Net Zero home. Net Zero is Habitat NYC and Westchester’s upcoming project that will become home for 16 hard-working families. Net Zero is a portfolio of 13 vacant, dilapidated, single-family homes across Southeastern Queens, the vacant homes will be demolished and rebuilt as modular structures. The bidding was intense, and together, the auction raised more than $70,000!
The entire night crushed our fundraising goal, and raised a total of more than $830,000 to help build and preserve housing for hard-working families!
Then, it was time to enjoy the after party, hosted by the Young Professionals network.
Thank you to all who came to either (or both!) nights of the Habitat House Party. Habitat NYC and Westchester has accomplished so much this year, and that work is possible because of each and every single one of our supporters.
It’s possible because of everyone who has stood with us through this global pandemic. If you’d like to make your own contribution to Habitat NYC and Westchester, and join out fight to build Housing for a Healthier New York, you can make a donation online right now.
COVID may have knocked us down, but by no means did it knock us out! We had so much to celebrate at the House Party and much more to accomplish in the coming years – so thank you for being part of our mission.