New home for holidays

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Laurie Kennedy fights back tears Saturday as she holds up her certificate of occupancy after she was presented with keys to her new house built by Habitat for Humanity.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Laurie Kennedy had her first gathering in her new home Saturday.

Kennedy and her two daughters, Ciarra Birch, 12 and Emma Kennedy, 7, were surrounded by friends, family and the volunteers who helped Habitat for Humanity build their house as she was presented with the keys at a dedication service.

After the ceremony, Kennedy stood in her kitchen with her daughters and said, “Welcome home girls.”

The three were surprised with a certificate of occupancy at the ceremony, which Kennedy thought she was still waiting for. But with the holiday coming, Kennedy doesn’t know when she’s going to move in.

“It would be all good if we’re all moved in the day after Christmas. It depends very much on the weather,” Kennedy said between hugs with family and friends. “It turned out awesome.”

Kennedy was involved in every process of building her family’s house. She sat with John Gove, the construction chairman with Habitat for Humanity, and designed the house.

“The major thing I wanted was me over here and them over there,” Kennedy said as she indicated that the master bedroom was across the house from the other two bedrooms.

Kennedy also put in more than 500 hours of volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, qualifying her for receipt of her home.

Gove said he was happy with the way the house turned out.

“It’s always a joy to be a part of this. I worked a lot with Laurie. We worked out the design on my kitchen table,” he said.

Kennedy’s daughters were excited about their rooms and everything else in the house. As Kennedy stood in the kitchen talking to the guests, Ciarra pointed at things and asked what they were.

“How do you use the dishwasher, mom?” she said. “We have three switches to that one light?”

Emma has already decided how to decorate her room.

“Butterflies. And we’re painting the walls baby girl pink,” she said, as she pointed to where her bed and dresser would go in her new room.

Everything in the house turned out the way Kennedy and her daughters wanted, but Kennedy said the best part was being involved in building it.

“We got to help build this home. Our heart and soul is in it from the ground up,” she said.