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Mark Simonson

January 13, 2014

Otsego Habitat for Humanity got start 25 years ago


By October 1989, Habitat for Humanity International approved the local affiliation, first named the Northern Susquehanna Habitat for Humanity. In later years it was changed to the present name, Habitat for Humanity of Otsego County.

The local volunteers hadn’t simply been waiting around to get word of the affiliation, as they were busy making plans for their first project. In August, a site was purchased at an Oneonta city auction on Reynolds Avenue for $2,000. The group also began searching for a family to build a home for, as well as to raise funds to make the home possible. To finish off 1989, volunteers completed a roof restoration project for a family in Unadilla.

A momentous occasion was finally reached on Saturday morning, April 28, 1990, when Oneonta Mayor David Brenner turned the first shovel of dirt for the construction site at 18 Reynolds Ave.

“Steven and Leicha Collins will be the owners of a brand new house that they will help build,” the Star reported. The couple were required to put in 300 hours of “sweat equity” into their new home. Most of the labor was provided by volunteers. The Northern Susquehanna Habitat for Humanity chapter had grown to 400 members during their first year. Between 100 and 200 of them worked on the construction of this one-and-a-half story, three-bedroom house. The Collins family planned to move into their new home in March 1991.

In addition to the “sweat equity,” a candidate family for a home must be living in substandard housing and be able to pay back Habitat for materials at no interest.

Longtime Habitat board member Emery Herman called it a win-win situation. “We’re not just building a house and leaving it. This is a hand-up, not a handout,” Herman said.

Habitat for Humanity of Otsego County has built 25 homes in their first 25 years. Volunteer opportunities and more information are available by calling 432-7874 or visiting

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Mark Simonson

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