Morris Habitat for Humanity builds first home in Middlesex County; Old Bridge community welcomes Elie family

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OLD BRIDGE – Habitat for Humanity provides opportunities when “life happens.”

For Jimmy and Taylor Elie, they met in high school.

“We had our daughter young,” Taylor Elie said, adding the couple worked together trying their best to raise their family in New York City, which now has become a family of four with an addition of a son.

A year ago, Taylor Elie came across an open application with Morris Habitat for Humanity and soon they will be able to start a new chapter in Old Bridge.

The new construction, ranch-style home located at 308 Norwood Ave. will feature three bedrooms, one bath, a front porch and small backyard. The home will be Energy Star certified and will have a septic system and public water. The property was donated by Michael Landreth.

“This is a new beginning for us,” Jimmy Elie said at the wall build ceremony on Oct. 13. “I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t nervous.”

His wife added, “I feel if you’re not scared, your dreams are not big enough.”

The Elie family thanked all who were involved in the process at a groundbreaking of their new home on Oct. 12 and the commencement of the wall build in the parking lot of Brunswick Square Mall in East Brunswick on Oct. 13.

Morris Habitat for Humanity hosted the ceremonies. The wall build ceremony dubbed “Coming Home With Habitat” included Morris Habitat for Humanity members and partners Mike Normand, director of integrated sales, Beasley Media Group, and Joel Katz, Morning Drive Host at Magic 98.3 FM. Radio stations FOX Sports News and Magic 98.3 broadcasted live from the Brunswick Square Mall each day of the wall build on Oct. 13 and 14.

“We recently expanded into Middlesex County,” said Blair Schleicher Wilson, chief executive officer of Morris Habitat, by merging with their sister affiliate Greater Plainfield and Middlesex County, which she said were smaller affiliates.

The Old Bridge home is Morris Habitat’s first build in Middlesex County.

The merge allows them “to build more homes faster,” she said. This is the third “Coming Home with Habitat” event in the area.

“Home ownership is a way we can have our families to put down roots, roots so they can be part of the community,” Wilson said. “It takes a community and partners to do what we do. There’s a tremendous need for safe and affordable places to live here in New Jersey for some folks. [The Fair Share Housing Center] has estimated over 200,000 units of affordable housing is needed right here in New Jersey. We aim to make a dent in that.”

Mayor Owen Henry attended the groundbreaking and wall build ceremonies.

“Habitat gives us the opportunity to come together to help this family,” he said, noting like the Elie family, his family years ago moved from the city to what was known as the “sticks of Madison Township at the time. “Sometimes I think we feel helpless … everyone should be able to live in a community that they want to live. Habitat gives us that opportunity to overcome that feeling of helplessness. We have an opportunity as a community to help … we become a better community and we become better individuals because of what Habitat does for us.”

As part of the process, the Elie family will be heavily immersed in the building of their new home. They need to contribute approximately 300 “sweat equity” hours toward building their home, helping in the ReStore or volunteering in a variety of ways to further Morris Habitat’s mission.

Along with all involved, Jimmy Elie showed appreciation to his wife at the ceremony, who he said was instrumental in moving the application process forward for their family.

“It goes to show when one person is focused and working hard, you still got your partner locked in trying to make things better for the family,” he said, thanking her in front of the crowd.

Taylor Elie said the process hasn’t been easy. She thanked everyone especially the patience of Loretta Rivers, Morris Habitat’s director of homeowner relations, and said their family is ready to move into something new.

The wall build included approximately 100 volunteers from businesses and the community. Volunteers also signed a piece of wood that will be built into the home. Tommy Price, project supervisor, estimated the build to take up to six months.

Among the volunteers included Sue Gardner, a retired New Brunswick City firefighter. Her first experience with volunteering for Habitat for Humanity was in 2006 when Brenda Berkman, a New York City firefighter at the time, was organizing a group of female firefighters to travel to Biloxi, Mississippi, to help after Hurricane Katrina.

“It was incredible,” Gardner said of the experience in Mississippi. “Here we were a group of female firefighters and there was a lot of roofing work needed. It was what we did. We threw up ladders and got to work.”

Gardner said since retiring, she volunteers when she can.

“It’s great for retired people,” she said, adding she has met so many people through Habitat.

Sponsors of the Old Bridge home and the wall panel build event include Aaron Kitchen and Bath Designs, Brunswick Square Mall, Carroll Engineering, Central Jersey Fence, Derby Appliances, Dow, GAF, Horizon Pest Control, Magic 98.3 and FOX Sports New Jersey, Magyar Bank, New Jersey Natural Gas, Royal Business Bank, Schneider Electric, Simpson Strong-Tie, United Site Services, Valley Bank, Whirlpool, Yale and architect Marjorie B. Roller.