Habitat build honors memory of volunteer

Original Article on TheNewOrleansAdvocate.com

A pastor from New Jersey, who helped build Habitat for Humanity homes in St. Tammany following Hurricane Katrina, will be remembered this summer with the Building on Faith program and construction a new home in Covington.

The Rev. Michael Rosco died in 2013, and his congregation at St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, has dedicated a Habitat for Humanity building project in his memory. Members of his congregation and the International Orthodox Christian Charities will raise funds and travel to begin the build June 6 with Habitat for Humanity St. Tammany West. Four other build weeks are planned, with a dedication projected for the end of the year.

According to the IOCC website, “Fr. Michael, working with IOCC Relief teams, assisted with three similar building projects in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.”

The church recently held a fundraising drive with contributions matched locally by a church in St. Tammany Parish. More than half of the $75,000 goal was raised, but it is the legacy of Rosco’s “hands-on mission work” that continues to inspire his congregation.

“It was through his initial efforts that the Diocese saw an increased awareness and participation in hands-on mission work. That work continues to this day,” according to the site.

Leighanne Weeks, of St. Tammany West Habitat, said “Building on Faith” is one of the build themes that contributes to the success of the Habitat chapter. Women will be challenged to come together the first week of May for the National Women Build Week; and a “Bench, Bar and Badge Build” will bring together judges, courthouse staff, attorneys, sheriff’s deputies, policemen and firemen May 13 and 14.

She said the Habitat’s Building on Faith committee works with 19 local churches that draw volunteers to build on Saturdays throughout the year. As well as the themed builds, individuals and businesses support Habitat’s efforts to provide local families the opportunity to purchase an affordable home with a no-interest mortgage.

To date, Habitat for Humanity St. Tammany West has built 242 homes, has six homes under construction and will start four more houses in May and June. New software obtained last July allows the chapter to track its volunteer hours more closely. So far, volunteers have logged more than 17,050 hours on builds alone.

The chapter estimates that more than 3,000 volunteers will help build homes with the chapter this year, and 2,750 volunteers help or contribute to the ReStore. The ReStore is an important part of the chapter’s fundraising as money raised from the resale of donations pays the building costs for 2.5 houses per year.

Money raised pays for the Habitat’s cost of construction, not the homebuyer’s. The family that will buy the house will contribute “sweat equity” during the build and assume the mortgage. Habitat also has programs that help prepare families for the financial demands of homeownership.

Volunteer coordinator Danielle Wilczynski is not surprised that the congregation in New Jersey would chose Habitat to remember its pastor.

“If you ever feel like you’ve lost faith in humanity — come build with us,” she said. “People from all over give their hearts to us.”

For information or to volunteer for a build, call Wilczynski at (985) 893-3172, ext. 222.

Habitat for Humanity St. Tammany West ReStore is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 1400 North Lane in Mandeville. To donate or for information, call the ReStore at (985) 898-0642.

To reach Tammany Times columnist Sharon Edwards, email tammanytimes@gmail.com. Send news and photos for the St. Tammany Advocate to sttammany@theadvocate.com.