Real Estate: Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk seeks volunteers

COURTESY PHOTO | Members of Rocky Point’s Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church helped build a house in Alabama for a family affected by Hurricane Katrina during a mission trip in 2011.

Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk wants you, especially if you have construction experience or leadership skills that will enable you to shepherd a small crew of volunteers.

So says Southold Town native and volunteer training coordinator Constantinos Kokkinos, who represents Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk County as an Americorps volunteer.

Habitat for Humanity brings communities together to build houses for families in need, giving them “a hand up, not a handout,” Mr. Kokkinos said, adding that the organization is on track to finish 16 homes in Suffolk County this year, up from 10 last year.

“We are seeking new partnerships to foster this growth,” he said, “We are looking for volunteers with leadership qualities, time on their hands and experience either leading volunteer groups or building houses.”

Mr. Kokkinos, the son of a Southold house painter who’s been at it for three decades, said the organization is looking for contractors like his father to donate labor.

He said the group especially needs licensed plumbers, site workers, roofers and other contractors who are willing to work — and will also warranty their work.

Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk was founded in 1987 as an independent affiliate of the international nonprofit affordable housing organization. As of August, Mr. Kokkinos said, the local group, which is based in Middle Island, has built 157 homes from Huntington Station to Westhampton, with half of them in Brookhaven Town, which by itself is bigger than Nassau County.

“We are currently building in Central Islip, Brentwood, East Patchogue, Bellport and East Moriches and are poised to begin builds in Shirley, Quiogue and Mastic Beach in 2013,” he said.

Mr. Kokkinos said the organization chooses low-income family applicants based on need, ability and willingness to partner.

Need, he said, refers to those who are living in “substandard conditions” involving poor building structure, electrical wiring, heating and cooling, living space, problematic power or water supply, pest infestations or other health and safety concerns.

Ability relates to the applicant’s ability to make timely payments on a nonprofit mortgage, ranging from $900 to $1,050 per month, depending on town taxes. The monthly payment includes property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and mortgage insurance, Mr. Kokkinos said, adding that applicants are responsible for home maintenance and utilities expenses. PMI, or personal monthly insurance, is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

“Willingness to partner is just that,” he said. “An applicant must be willing to work with us to build their home. Partner families must acquire up to 270 hours of ‘sweat equity,’ which they do by working on the construction of their home and other Habitat family partners’ homes.”

Anyone who doesn’t have time to volunteer but is willing to donate funding is encouraged to contact the local group’s director of development, Les Scheinfeld, at les@habitatsuffolk.org. Donations of building materials and supplies are also welcomed at the group’s “ReStore” in Ronkonkoma; visit suffolkrestore.com.

Mr. Kokkinos also encouraged teens to consider participating in the organization’s youth volunteer program. “Habitat Young Professionals is a group of young adults who actively advance Habitat Suffolk’s work and mission through increasing volunteerism, spreading awareness and raising funds,” he said. Teens interested in getting involved can contact Lindsey Ross at hyp@habitatsuffolk.org

“Donated labor helps reduce the final cost of a home, thus reducing the price for the partner family,” he said. “If you are an individual with experience, time on your hands and a desire to build with us long-term, you should reach out to me at construction@habitatsuffolk.org or call 631-924-4966, ext. 112.”

Individuals wishing to volunteer their time can also put themselves on a volunteer “walk-on” list. Visit habitatsuffolk.org, click the “Get involved” button and enter your email address in the box on the left side of the page.

gvolpe@timesreview.com

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