Morris Habitat for Humanity commemorated 35 years of building homes, communities and hope with a celebration at its headquarters in Randolph on October 22, 2020. Joined by local elected officials, donors, volunteers, Habitat homeowners and friends, the nonprofit organization reflected on its successes and shared plans for the future.
“This is a glorious day to bring the community together to celebrate 35 years of providing safe, decent and affordable housing for local families in need,” said CEO Blair Schleicher Wilson. “But we build more than just homes—we empower families to build brighter futures for generations to come.”
Octavia Chavis, Morris Habitat’s very first homeowner, agreed. Back in 1985, she and her husband, Willie, moved from apartment to apartment with their three young sons. Even though both held full-time jobs, homeownership was out of their reach.
“I am so grateful that Morris Habitat came into our lives,” Chavis told the crowd, as she described how her family has grown and thrived. Chavis recalled how the couple put in more than five hundred hours of sweat equity while building their home in Morristown, starting the model of partnership with homeowner families that provides a “hand up, not a handout.”
Sandy Jones also spoke about becoming a homeowner with Habitat. With the security of living in one place, her four daughters have all gone on to higher education or successful careers She continues to be a Morris Habitat volunteer and has even traveled to work on Blitz Builds around the country.
Rev. Alison Paden of First Presbyterian Church in Mendham gave a blessing.
In his speech, State Senator Anthony Bucco remarked that Morris Habitat “is the perfect model for achieving the American dream of home ownership and of the community coming together to give families a sense of hope.” Senator Bucco and Assemblywoman Aura Dunn presented a proclamation from New Jersey to Morris Habitat, honoring its work over 35 years.
From humble beginnings of building one or two houses a year, Morris Habitat has grown into one of the most active Habitat affiliates in New Jersey. In the last decade alone, the organization completed 74 affordable homes—and more than 100 projects are planned over the next four years.
Since 1985, Morris Habitat has served more than 600 families, built 120 local homes, and preserved another 200 homes for low-income and senior residents.
The organization has engaged more than 130,000 volunteers for its various programs. The affiliate also operates a successful ReStore home improvement outlet in Randolph that has kept 11,000 tons of reusable materials out of landfills and funded 28 homes.
According to Schleicher Wilson, these achievements have served to energize the organization. “Next summer we will be breaking ground on Morris Habitat’s largest project in the state—25 condo units, right here in Randolph.”
The project is being constructed in partnership with Randolph Township, which donated the property on Bennett Avenue. Four buildings will contain one-, two- and three-bedroom condos. Families will be able to use a community meeting room, sidewalks, bike path, outdoor picnic area and playground. The complex will be handicap accessible and will meet the highest standards of energy efficiency and safety. Steve Westhoven, President and CEO of New Jersey Natural Gas, presented Morris Habitat with a $35,000 donation for this project.
Randolph Mayor Christine Carey highlighted the Bennett Avenue project in her remarks: “Several years ago, we joined forces with Morris Habitat on a plan for the development of 25 housing units on the former E.A. Porter industrial site. I am happy this project is coming to fruition. I can’t wait to see the results, the new homes and the happy families and homeowners.”