Habitat for Humanity is known around Westchester for its work fixing up homes and building new ones, helping people in dire circumstances from poverty to floods. The organization marshals sweat equity, volunteers and donations to do its good work.
With all that, Habitat doesn’t often hear criticism. But a project in Chappaqua, doing a few maintenance projects for an 87-year-old woman, became one drawn-out case of dissatisfaction with the non-profit.
Marvelle Gilbert of Poillon Drive signed up for a Habitat program called a Brush with Kindness last year after she mentioned to a town social worker that she needed to have maintenance done on her house that she couldn’t do herself and couldn’t afford to have done. The association started off well, with a large group of Horace Greeley High School students and Habitat workers descending on her home one day last fall to start work on painting projects and other touch ups she asked for around the home. They did some good work: cutting down a branch and painting the handrail of her stairs. But some things were left unfinished or broken.
And worse of all, it took more than a year to get everything finished. Gilbert said she called many times, and many times workers came over to talk about what needed to be done. But it didn’t get done.
“I’m 87 years old and this has stressed me out,” she said when she decided to call The Journal News with her story.
Some things she paid herself to get done. A planter put in the middle of the small circle on her cul-de-sac was left unplanted so eventually, after complaints from neighbors, she had someone take it away. Her garage door was painted the wrong color and had to be repainted. The door was broken and took several weeks to fix. Power washing didn’t solve a mold problem.
“They promised me the moon and I was so excited but it’s been nothing but hell,” she said.
After a call from a reporter a few weeks ago, Habitat sent out a worker to finish up the last few projects, finally completing them late last week.
Gilbert is quick to say she knows Habitat for Humanity of Westchester, based in New Rochelle, does good work. But she was at the end of her rope.
Jim Killoran, the executive director of Habitat, said the organization had been occupied with helping homeowners recover from flooding in recent months. And though they felt they had done a lot, they wanted to go up and finish.
“We want to do what’s right,” he said.
Photo: Marvelle Gilbert of Chappaqua points to her side porch, where Habitat volunteers painted one coat of varnish, which she felt was inadequate to withstand the winter.