Homes of the brave

Local officials join Habitat for Humanity at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new home in Palmyra that will house a military family.

Front row, from left, state sen. Troy Singleton, Burlington County Freeholder Daniel O’Connell, local veteran George Gordon, Habitat for Humanity of Burlington County and Greater Trenton-Princeton CEO Lori Leonard, local veteran Elwood Young and Mayor Michelle Arnold break ground at a lot on the corner of Front and Arch Streets, the future site of a home being built as part of Habitat for Humanity’s Veterans Build Program in Palmyra, for a military family.

Following an almost year-long campaign, Habitat for Humanity of Burlington County and Greater Trenton-Princeton’s Veterans Build Program in Palmyra secured a veteran applicant for one of two homes to be built at the corner of Front and Arch streets just in time to hold a groundbreaking ceremony a week before Memorial Day.

On Monday, May 20, the organization was joined by local veterans, Mayor Michelle Arnold, state Sen. Troy Singleton and Burlington County Freeholder Daniel O’Connell to break ground at the site of what will become two single-family homes.

“By this time next year, two brand new homes will be standing on this lot and both of these homes will go to hard-working, dedicated and passionate lower-income families for a mortgage amount that is affordable for them because it is based on their income,” said president of the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity of Burlington County and Greater Trenton-Princeton, Rick Dougherty, opening the ceremony.

According to Dougherty, the two houses represent the third and fourth homes Habitat for Humanity has built in Palmyra.

He went on to note the site for the veterans build at the corner of Front and Arch streets was specifically chosen as it is the former location of the Tri-Boro Veterans building.

“This lot and its history are very special to us here at Habitat and to the Borough of Palmyra and the veteran community,” said Dougherty.

“For this project it was very important to us that we honored the memory of this ground that we stand on here today, and that is the Tri-Boro Vets building. So as we transition that into a new awakening, we made sure that we were honoring our veterans by offering these homes first to military and military families,” said Arnold.

According to the mayor, the borough plans to install a cornerstone or commemorative plaque on the site in memory of our veterans.

It took a considerable amount of time for Habitat for Humanity of Burlington County and Greater Trenton-Princeton to secure a veteran applicant for one of the properties, and CEO Lori Leonard believes they have finally figured out why.

“You might find it surprising to know that we have a really hard time finding vets and active military people to purchase the homes in our Veterans Build Program,” said Leonard. “Veterans are extremely proud, humble people. They are helpers and they don’t want to accept any help from anybody. So, once we figured that out, we realized that we have to communicate that this program is a hard program to navigate through, and you’re buying a house with a mortgage, we’re not giving you anything other than the opportunity to work hard and buy a house and pay your own mortgage.”

Following Leonard was Singleton, who presented each of the veterans in attendance at the groundbreaking with commemorative Habitat for Humanity challenge coins in recognition of their service.

“One of these houses will honor someone who served our country, someone who was willing to write a check up to and including their life,” said Singleton. “A little token of appreciation that we can do is to make sure that they have the shelter that all of us would want for all of our families right here. This community has always embraced its commitment to veterans and those who served our country. This is just a natural extension of what Palmyra has always done.”