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UPDATED: Ground Broken, Construction Begins On Habitat For Humanity Project (Photos, Video)

Apr 23, 2015 03:15PM ● By Bill Gilman
Melinda Carroll and her family took a giant step toward fulfilling a dream when they broke ground last week on Tewksbury's first-ever Habitat For Humanity project.
Local and state officials, project participants and donors, along with friends, family and new neighbors were on hand for the ceremony, which took place in the temporarily vacant lot at 110 State St.
Carroll and three of her four children (Stephanie, 22, Jonathan, 18, and Jason, 11) removed the ceremonial first shovels of dirt on the site of what will be a single-family ranch home. The family, which presently lives in Lowell, was selected for the Tewksbury Habitat home from among scores of applicants. Melinda received notification in January, setting off a post-holiday family celebration.
"This was the second time I had applied," she said. "I was optimistic. I thought our application was a little stronger this time. I'd built up my credit a little. I'd already gone through the financial training."
The Carroll's home takes the place of dilapidated home that had been vacant for at least 16 years, according to Denise and Gary Hawkes, who have lived next door, at 126 State St., since 1992.
"It was just a total waste of a plot," said Denise Hawkes.
"This is a good neighborhood. But that house was just all rundown," added her husband.
The Hawkes' said they were excited to see the lot cleared and to have construction begin on the Habitat for Humanity project.
"Now, to get a chance to meet the family for the first time, it's pretty cool," said Denise.
The local sponsor for the project is "Tewksbury Build," a group that started through the Tewksbury Congregational Church but has rapidly grown into its own non-profit agency, including members from multiple local churches, as well as the community at-large.
"We are about to become a separate 503C," said Bruce Panilaitis, a Tewksbury Build member and Tewksbury Selectman, adding that the State Street home won't be the only Habitat project in Tewksbury. "Even when that (fundraising thermometer) gets to 100 percent, that just takes care of the first house. We're looking to do another 9 or 10 or 15. So keep working!"
Brenda Gould, executive director for Greater Lowell Habitat for Humanity shared that enthusiasm for future Tewksbury projects.
"This is the 34th home we've built in Greater Lowell and ... this is the best community we have worked with," said Gould. "You have opened your hearts and opened your pocketbooks. This is a wonderful community."
The State Street Habitat project is truly a team effort. Tewksbury Build pledged $50,000, with another $50,000 coming from the Dancing With the Realtors fundraiser. The Town of Tewksbury has kicked in $75,000 from the town's Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
"The town is 100 percent committed to making sure this works," said Selectman David Gay.
Also making the project possible has been in-kind donations from local contractors and developers such as Marc Ginsburg, Arnie Martel and Keith Anderson. In addition, a group of Tewksbury Firefighters has committed manpower to the project.
But at the center of the project is the Carroll Family, who will have their share of responsibilities. The family must put in 225 hours of "sweat equity" as part of the construction. The will also have a mortgage, likely in the area of $160,000. The mortgage will be held by Greater Lowell Habitat with 0% interest.

The Carroll Family breaks ground for their new home at 110 State St., Tewksbury.

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