EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 3, 2013

Company employees chip in at Habitat building site

By Yadira Betances

---- — LAWRENCE — Instead of sitting behind desks crunching numbers and examining data, accountants, chief operating officers and auditors from two companies in Burlington were putting up sheet rock, removing windows and cleaning bricks at 100 Parker St. one day last week.

Axial Financial Group, Axial Benefits Group and DiCicco, Gulman & Company LLP combined their talents, time and efforts in helping with the building of 10 condominiums at the former St. Patrick’s convent to help Habitat for Humanity on Wednesday.

“We took in consideration the status of the city and wanted to help,” said Mick Rodgers, principal and managing partner at Axial Benefits Group.

“After doing research, I saw the reputation Habitat had in houses turn over, and the longevity of families staying at the homes. We thought we could affect some changes,” Rodgers said.

He enlisted the help of Cheryl Burke, chief operating officer at DiCicco, Gulman & Company LLP. Each financial firm brought 10 volunteers ranging in age from 20 to 50.

“Community service is a key for retention for us,” Burke said. “Our partnership has always been keen about giving and serving and when you give, your relationship with fellow employees is taken to a different level.”

The work day lasted from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for volunteers from Axial and DiCicco, Gulman & Company. They did everything from cleaning bricks, plastering walls and removing windows.

Emerson Dahmen, building director for Habitat for Humanity said the project is well underway. Framing for seven of the 10 units has been done and some of the windows have been installed. The exterior has been painted and fire escape stairs are done. There will be acoustical separation between each unit, the floors have been insulated and 6-inch foam board insulation was placed between the exterior and interior of the building to save energy.

Plumbers have completed work in the first three units and part of the common area and the sprinkler system will be put in place before electricians come to do their jobs.

For Paul Miller of North Andover, working for Habitat is one of the many volunteer he does in Greater Lawrence. He also supports Bellesini Academy, an all-boys middle school in Lawrence and the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence.

“This is just another example of helping our neighbors,” Miller said. “As neighbors we live next to each other and the better neighbors we are, it will be a better community for one another.”

Justin Hirsch of Andover agrees.

“It’s nice to give back and to help provide a home that’s going to be affordable,” said Hirsch an auditor for DiCicco, Gulman & Company. “Worrying about where to live should be at the bottom of any parent’s list and with Habitat, this is one less thing they have to worry about.”

The Burlington firms are among corporation, community and faith-based groups who volunteer Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, said Sharon Mason, community development for Habitat. There is also a core group who works.

Habitat volunteers donate labor and materials, as well as architectural, legal, and energy-consulting services, Mason said. Habitat for Humanity hopes to complete the project at 100 Parker St. by Dec. 2014, Mason said.

Habitat purchased the convent at 100 Parker St., from the Archdiocese of Boston for $300,000, which had been vacant since 2006.

The facade of the 16,469-foot red brick building with white trim, will remain and much of the wood will be reused. The inside of the 102-year-old building will be converted into one , two-bedroom apartment and nine, three-bedroom units. There will be common areas for use of all residents.

Each residence will be sold at cost to low-income families participating in Habitat for Humanity’s partner family program. Nine out of the 10 families have been selected, Mason said. They include a single mother, a single father and couples with children.

The average home costs $115,000 to build. Habitat families purchase their homes for the out-of-pocket cost of construction with a no-interest mortgage held by Habitat. The organization finances them with a 20, 25 or 30 year mortgages at no interest. Habitat homeowners earn between 25 percent and 50 percent of the area median income - for a family of four, that means $22,000 to $44,000.

Building the 10 units is the biggest project done by Habitat in Greater Lawrence and Haverhill since its founding in 1985. Since then, they have built 69 homes and have 14 home constructions underway.

About Habitat for Humanity Open house at 100 Parker St., for volunteers and sponsors will be held Nov. 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. to show the progress done at the site so far. How to apply for a Habitat home: Attend an information meeting by calling Roxanna at 978-681-8858 to register. Participate in all Habitat home educational workshops. Contribute between 240 and 360 "sweat equity hours" in working on building their home. Pay closing costs estimated to be about $2,400. Participate in the management of a condominium association where applicable Habitat for Humanity needs volunteers. To register and sign up or contact Sharon or Jennifer by e-mail at info@merrimackvalleyhabitat.org or by phone - 978-681-8858. Corporations and groups interested in building with us or a team building day, can call Sharon at 978-681-8858.