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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

A Hand Up

Mar 30, 2012 02:23PM ● By Susan Bloom

David and Amy Detwiler and their three young children were literally “bursting at the seams” in their two-bedroom rental, but were financially unable to make a move on their modest salaries as teachers at Parsippany Christian School. Enter Morris Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit housing ministry dedicated to providing decent, affordable housing for low-income families in Morris County.  Four months, 400 volunteers, many generous donations, and countless hours of “sweat equity” later, the Detwilers will soon own and occupy a renovated three bedroom, single-family home on a shady street in Pompton Plains. “We’re overwhelmed and humbled by the opportunity we’ve been given,” Amy says.

While the Detwilers consider themselves lucky to have secured the home—to be sold for $145,000 with a zero-interest, 30-year fixed mortgage held by Morris Habitat—through Morris Habitat’s lottery system, they’re just one of many success stories made possible by the renowned organization.  Since launching in 1985, Morris Habitat has built nearly 60 homes and supported 235 households with home ownership opportunities, home preservation, and international home building programs.  “There’s a perception that Morris County is very affluent, but the truth is there’s a big need for housing there,” says Ellie Arnould-Tomb, Media Outreach Volunteer for Mine Hill-based Morris Habitat.  “We not only build homes from scratch, but we also provide home rehabilitations/renovations and fix-ups, so the scope of our services is very broad.”

Morris Habitat for Humanity represents a great deal more than just an actual build at a construction site; the organization involves thousands of volunteers and offers many different ways for people to contribute their time or resources—from donating building materials and assisting with fundraising to helping with office work, making phone calls, mentoring families and planning events.  Volunteers can also offer their services in the Morris Habitat “ReStore,” a retail establishment that sells new and gently used donated items at a substantial discount to the general public. Funds raised from the ReStore are then put toward the construction of affordable housing.  “Habitat is a very welcoming organization and will help match people’s interests and skills with our needs so that everyone, from young adults to seniors, can share in the experience and participate in a meaningful way,” Arnould-Tomb explains.

In addition to providing a life-changing experience for a family in need, the act of participating in Habitat for Humanity offers many rewards to a volunteer as well, including the satisfaction of learning new skills, fostering a sense of achievement and helping others in the community.  “Volunteers can really find the day-to-day excitement of the build process motivating and inspiring,” Arnould-Tomb says.

And the opportunities are widespread.  In Union County, for instance, a crowd recently braved the mid-January cold to witness the dedication of six new housing units on 39 Morris Avenue in Summit.  Of the landmark achievement, Blair Schleicher Bravo, Executive Director of Morris Habitat for Humanity, shared, “While there are those who merely speculate on social change, there are those who choose to work for that change. These homes were built in that spirit.  It’s the culmination of a truly collaborative process—a community of interested, caring people wanting to help those in need.”

For the Detwilers, who look forward to hosting many family and holiday dinners in their new kitchen and to cultivating a vegetable garden in their backyard, their home represents a dream come true.  “We sincerely thank all the different donors and volunteers for helping our family and others like ours live in safe, decent, affordable homes,” Amy Detwiler says.  “Homeowners may be low-income, but they work very hard and appreciate the opportunity they’re given.”

Tasked with a great ongoing need—Morris Habitat currently has 44 building projects in the pipeline through 2015 and hopes to complete its 100th home by then—Arnould-Tomb confirms “It’s so fulfilling to volunteer in this organization, and the families who have been helped are over the moon.  It’s a whole new life for them.”

For more information on Morris Habitat for Humanity, the parameters for family selection, or the various types of volunteers needed, call 973-891-1934 or visit To learn more about the Morris Habitat ReStore, visit You can also reach out to these Habitat affiliates located in central and northern New Jersey:

Sussex County Habitat for Humanity (Branchville)


Habitat for Humanity Newark (Newark/Essex County)


The Greater Plainfield Habitat for Humanity (Plainfield/Union County)


Paterson Habitat for Humanity


Hackensack Habitat for Humanity (Bergen County)


Freelancer Susan Bloom writes weekly Health and Food features for New Jersey’s Asbury Park Press and specializes in topics related to nutrition, fitness and healthy lifestyles.

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