By NED CAMPBELL
SCHENECTADY — Jose Gonzalez and Maricely Torres have some holiday decorating to do.
The two were handed the keys to their first home — built by Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County — during a dedication ceremony Nov. 22.
“We are ready to pack up and ready to have a new Christmas in a new house,” Gonzalez said.
The yellow, one-story, four-bedroom home on Van Vranken Avenue in Schenectady’s Goose Hill neighborhood was built over the past seven months by mostly female volunteers. Bruce Pomeroy, the house leader, and Gonzalez himself were two exceptions.
The home is the seventh built in 10 years through the local Habitat’s Women Build program, and the 43rd home the Schenectady organization has built since it was founded in 1993. The organization is working on rehabilitating two neighboring homes on Van Vranken.
“It’s so gratifying,” said Virginia Newton of Burnt Hills, a 10-year volunteer who worked on the home. “We’re not building houses, we’re building communities.”
John Scharf, executive director of the local Habitat, said the family will sign a 39-year mortgage agreement and make monthly, zero-interest payments that are less than what they now pay in rent.
“This is not a handout,” he said. “It’s a hand up.”
Gonzalez and Torres will live in the house with their three girls, ages 16, 8 and 9 months after they vacate the apartment they now are living in on Albany Street.
Gonzalez and Torres moved to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1993. Both work in a local factory that supplies material to hospitals.
“This is something that everybody [is waiting for],” Gonzalez said. “This is our future, and this is our family, too.”
Gonzalez said his 8-year-old daughter, Kayshalee, can’t wait to start attending Yates Arts in Education Magnet School — which is right behind their new house — next fall. She’s going to Lincoln Community Elementary School this year.
“She just wants to walk already to school,” her dad said.