When Jackie Sorenson arrived at the Habitat For Humanity of Cape Cod offices in Yarmouth on June 1, she was not happy. She had received a call telling her that she had missed a piece of the paperwork in her application and had to come all the way to the offices, an hour’s drive from where she lives in Falmouth, as the paperwork had to be filled out in person. But when she got there, something happened that changed her life.
Ms. Sorenson was told that she had been chosen for the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod and Habitat For Humanity Blitz Build and would soon be the owner of a brand-new three-bedroom home for her and her children.
“[It was] like it was a dream,” Ms. Sorenson said. “Indescribable. I was crying and hyperventilating. The first thing I did was I drove to my mom’s house. She lives in Yarmouth, and I surprised her, and we cried together because my parents never had the chance to be homeowners and it was always their dream, and then my dad passed away. So it never became a reality. So to be the first homeowner out of my family is really exciting.”
Ms. Sorenson celebrated her soon-to-be homeownership at the Blitz Build Kickoff Party at Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery on Tuesday, June 7. She was surrounded by family, friends and members of both Habitat and HBRACC. About 100 people were in attendance, including Ms. Sorenson’s children, mother and best friend and other Habitat homeowners.
Habitat has been working to build 10 homes on Willet Way in Falmouth; six of them are complete. The final stage of the build will include three more homes built by volunteers and homeowners and one Blitz Build, a home built by a team of volunteer HBRACC professionals using donated materials over the course of five days.
“What’s nice about tonight’s event is it’s a great representation of the membership and the commitment to this build,” said Chris Flanagan, executive officer for HBRACC. “We cover every facet of the building industry. Here tonight there were electricians, plumbers and window installers—every aspect of the build. They’re all represented here tonight, and I think that says a lot about the association’s commitment to this project. Everything is donated and it’s something that we all rally behind because we really believe in home ownership for all and building a home for a family.”
Many members of the Falmouth community came out to support what will be the fifth Blitz Build on Cape Cod and the first-ever in Falmouth. Michael Duffany, who has been named build chairman for the September Blitz Build, spoke at the kickoff and said he is proud that he and his company, M. Duffany Builders, are part of it.
Onjalé Scott Price, representing the Falmouth Select Board at the event, said programs like Habitat and the Blitz Build are important for the town.
“It brings options for people, which brings stability,” she said. “Everyone deserves to have a happy, healthy life, and that really does start with housing. If you don’t have somewhere safe to go home to at the end of the day, if you don’t have somewhere comfortable, it makes the day that much harder, it makes life that much harder.”
The highlight of the event was a speech from Ms. Sorenson herself, accompanied by her children, Layla, 6, and Jay, 2. During her speech Ms. Sorenson recounted her journey, from being homeless in Falmouth while pregnant with her daughter six years ago to now, a mother of two starting a new job and on the precipice of home ownership.
“I currently work at Falmouth Housing Authority,” Ms. Sorenson said. “I got an entry-level job there as a receptionist, and this week I start being the tenant selector coordinator. So like you guys are housing my children, I will be housing families in Falmouth, too, and what a wonderful feeling that is. We really need more housing for our locals because, as everyone knows, the workforce has dried up and we have no one that wants to work here because they can’t afford to live here.”
Growing up middle class, Ms. Sorenson moved six times. Her parents, she said, were never able to fulfill their dream of owning a home before her father died. Now, she and her children will be able to live the life that Ms. Sorenson’s parents always dreamed about.
“When I was young, I moved six times,” Ms. Sorenson said. “I was homeless in Falmouth, I was housed in Falmouth, and now I have a Section 8 voucher that I’m going to give up to another Falmouth family. And I’m giving up my low-tax credit unit to another family. So by housing me, you didn’t house just one family; you’ve housed three.”
Ms. Sorenson was able to meet and mingle with the other Habitat homeowners who will soon become her neighbors. Wendy Cullinan, CEO of Habitat For Humanity Cape Cod, said that building a community for the homeowners is just as important as building the actual homes.
“It’s about what happens on the inside and the friendships that develop,” Ms. Cullinan said. “We want to build for working families just like Jackie, who is hardworking and trying to get a leg up in life. That’s what Habitat is. A lot of times in life, someone helps you out. Like your dad knows the owner, so he gets you a job, or your parents can afford to put down your down payment. Our Habitat families probably don’t have that, and that’s what we are. We’re that help along the way.”
Typically, Habitat homes are built by volunteer workers and homeowners putting in their sweat equity. The Blitz Build, on the other hand, is done entirely by professional contractors who work sunup to sundown to completely build and finish the house for the homeowner to move into at the end of the week.
“They know what they’re doing, and it’s amazing,” Ms. Cullinan said. “At the last Blitz Build, I was standing in the house next door thinking where else in my life would I have this experience, where there are hundreds of people running and building and this house is appearing in front of our eyes? It’s amazing. Not a lot of people get to see that.”
Being a nonprofit company that also does construction, Habitat’s partnership with HBRACC is mutually beneficial.
“They want to be part of the community, and we involve the community every step of the way,” Ms. Cullinan said. “We can’t do it without community. Our partnership is because we’re of like mind. We wanted to involve the community in what we do. We can’t do it without the community, and they want to be part of that.”
For Ms. Sorenson, the outpouring of generosity from the community, Habitat and HBRACC was enough to bring her to tears.
“Winning this has taken away 80 percent of the things that kept me awake at night,” she said during her speech. “My children will always be able to call Falmouth home. My daughter is starting [at] Mullen-Hall in September and she gets to ride the school bus there, and she gets stuck riding that school bus all the way to Falmouth High School. I’m just so grateful. Falmouth is a beautiful community. The day I moved here when I was homeless, and you guys housed me and you guys lifted me up and gave me employment to this moment, and this is what life is all about.”
The Falmouth Blitz Build is scheduled to begin on Monday, September 19, and conclude on Friday, September 23.