Northern Ocean Habitat Breaks Ground On 20th Home

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by Deborah Allgair (Homeowner Services), Bob Conway (Construction Director), Cristine Keresztes (Program Services Manager/Volunteer Coordinator), Kristine Novakowski (Executive Director) and Lydia Bovasso (GCU Intern). (Photo courtesy Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity)

  BERKELEY – The Northern Ocean Habitat For Humanity recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and also the groundbreaking of its 20th home.

  The group partners with families who are looking for a “hand-up, not a hand-out” in owning their first home.

  The groundbreaking was delayed for a year because of the coronavirus, but shovels hit the dirt in the latest property on Grand Central Parkway in Berkeley Township. The land was part of an estate given to Habitat.

  As to who will live in the house, that’s still to be decided. They have an application process which wraps up on April 12. They are looking for families who fit financial and other considerations. They are also looking for people who can put “sweat equity” into the home, swinging hammers alongside the other volunteers, and be part of the process.

  Right now, that family is probably living in substandard housing and paying too much for it, said Bob Conway, construction director.

Ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt were turned to symbolize a new start for a local family. (Photo courtesy Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity)

  Rent and other expenses tie up a family’s income, making home ownership an almost impossible dream, he said.

  “Everyone should have a safe and affordable place to live,” said Kristine Novakowski, executive director of Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity, during the groundbreaking ceremony.

  Unfortunately, the ceremony itself had to be recorded with some speakers edited in because of social distancing guidelines. In previous years, the event drew a small crowd of local leaders, volunteers, and members of the business community who were providing financial support.

  The house will hopefully be done by summer or early fall, officials said.

  Two of the speakers, via remote recordings, were single mothers recently helped by Habitat. Katiria Rodriguez and Gloria Walling both have been working in the health care field through the pandemic. They gave testimonials on how having a house of their own, with a shed and laundry area, enabled them to keep their families safe so they wouldn’t bring the virus home. They also gave empowering advice to the families who will be chosen.

  A home is even more important now, during the pandemic, Novakowski said. People are working from home. Kids are learning from home.

This property in the Pinewald section of Berkeley will be the site of a new home. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

  While this provides an immediate help for a family, it serves a long-term goal as well. Children raised in a safe home are more likely to succeed. They are more likely to have the foundation to be in a better place when they start their own families, and so on. It’s because of this, that the assistance is truly generational. One family is helped now, but the impact will be felt by their grandchildren. 

  Lowe’s home improvement store was thanked for supporting the mission and Women Build Week. A number of individuals and groups were also thanked, including Mayor Carmen Amato for supporting six Habitat homes in his town, tradespeople for offering free goods and services, volunteers for their help, and shoppers at the ReStore located at 1214 Route 37 East in Toms River.

  For more information, ideas on how to help, or an application to be considered for the home, visit