Peter's Story

Paying forward a life-changing opportunity

It was almost 40 years ago that Peter Luba purchased his own home in Philadelphia through a program similar to Habitat’s Home Buying program. Looking back, he is grateful to have been given the life-changing opportunity to provide a stable life for his family.

That’s one of the reasons he volunteers at the ReStore, Habitat’s discount home improvement store, where 100 percent of the proceeds are used to help hard-working families get decent, affordable homes. 

“It’s really fulfilling knowing that the time I spend at the ReStore, ultimately creates the same homeownership possibilities for others that I had,” he says.

Volunteering at the ReStore

He was donating several bathroom and kitchen appliances from his contracting business when Peter first learned about the opportunities to volunteer at the ReStore. Since then, he’s been a stable presence, on site at least 4 days a week, unloading large items that are delivered to the dock, and assisting with setting up other items to be sold throughout the store.

 “Those are just some of the ways people can volunteer,” explains Peter Zappola, Director of ReStore operations. “You can work as a cashier, pick up donations, repair furniture, assist customers, sort donations and even decorate the store.” 

Helping families that need it most

For Peter, being able to contribute to the lives of families that need it most is the spark that keeps his desire to serve burning brightly.

“I truly enjoy interacting with the other volunteers, shoppers, and the ReStore staff,” he says. “It’s always great to watch customers come in, look around and find the high quality items they need, and at such great prices.”

“We’re really grateful to Peter his outstanding commitment,’ says Executive Director Marianne Lynch, “We’re also very happy to have someone with such a compassionate and positive attitude on our ReStore volunteer team.”

Helen’s Story

Helen's dream of a secure home has come true

Helen Reilly and her four beautiful children, />Kamori (9), twins Kordell and Karina (7), and London (1) are happily settled at 52 W. Basin Street in Norristown.  But home wasn’t always like this.

Growing up in an Air Force family, Helen moved from city to city—always the ‘new kid’ in the class.  She decided that when she started her own family, they would have a different experience: a comfortable home where her kids could just ‘be kids.’

Helen’s dream has finally come true. That’s thanks to her hard work and dedication in the Home Buyer program, and the generosity of Lenny Bazemore and the Bazemore Family Foundation.

52 West Basin: a house full of memories

Successful artist and real estate investor Lenny Bazemore grew up on West Basin Street. Across the street was number 52 – the home of his childhood best friend, Curt and his safe haven where Curt’s parents gave him advice that shaped him as a man.

When his parents died, Curt asked Lenny to buy the house. Lenny agreed, thinking that he would flip it.  “But something didn’t feel ‘right,’” Lenny said. Instead, he donated the property to Habitat, along with $50,000 for renovations. “I want children to have wonderful memories there, like I did.”

Those children are Helen’s. Ironically, the father of Helen’s three oldest grew up just doors away from Lenny. Tragically, the young man was killed several years ago.

A neighborhood, a block, a family

“For my kids, this is coming home to a block that is like family,” says Helen. “The people here knew my children’s father and I feel like they’ll watch over us.

“I’m very thankful for Habitat to make it affordable for me to provide for my family. Eventually, down the road, I’d like to pay it forward if I can.”

In Habitat’s Home Buyer program, Helen worked diligently to earn her sweat equity hours and also graduated from the Almost Home financial empowerment program where her classmates fondly nicknamed her 'Quiet.’

Behind Helen's quiet nature is an incredible strength and resilience. In the face of tragedy, she has done everything in her power to provide for, and protect her children.

For months, Helen's kids asked her every day, "Can we move in yet?' Finally, she was able to say, ‘Yes!’

Joe’s Story

Villanova, Habitat and leadership

Ask Joe Catuzzi what he’s passionate about and you’ll most likely hear: his family, Villanova, and Habitat for Humanity. Ironically, the three are all connected.

Joe is a proud Villanova alum who met his wife Emily on a Habitat student chapter build. Today, he is an attorney at Stradley Ronon and a member of Habitat’s Montdelco’s Board of Directors. He and Emily still volunteer together; most recently coordinating a Villanova Alumni Build.

Joe’s Habitat leadership was evident early on. After participating in Saturday build trips as a Nova freshman, he stepped up sophomore year as co-president of the chapter, one of the most active in the nation.

Harnessing student power

“Villanova students bleed blue for the Wildcats, but they also live and breathe service,” Joe explains. “We had a Habitat program called Act! Speak! Build! We were empowered to set a goal and make it happen. So we educated the student body about affordable housing and asked them to donate the cost of a cup of coffee, or lunch. We raised $7,000 in small donations.”

Under Joe’s leadership, Villanova’s Habitat for Humanity student chapter raised $50,000 to sponsor two homes in Montgomery County. Since 2002, the chapter has raised more than $150,000 and provided more than 7,000 volunteer hours to Habitat Montdelco.

According to Executive Director Marianne Lynch, the University has profoundly influenced Habitat’s success. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for Villanova,” she says. “Today, we’re one of the top producing Habitats in the United States. We’ve been motivated to excel, and we built our capacity thanks to the support of the University. We couldn’t be more grateful.”

Today, Habitat benefits from the volunteer service of undergraduate and graduate students who conduct research, and from alumni like Joe who serve on the board and on volunteer committees. 

Getting back from giving back

For Joe, volunteering for Habitat is about service to others, but it’s also about fulfillment.  “I’ve learned a lot about Habitat’s business model and what it takes to sustain an organization. I’ve built a lot of relationships, and through my work on the Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, have helped build partnerships with other non-profits and with community members.”

His favorite part? “It’s the opportunity to attend events and meet the families that partner with us during the year. Their resiliency is inspiring.”