BY KELLY DE LA ROCHA
SCHENECTADY — In the midst of a leadership change at Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County, two families who have waited months to move into Habitat homes have been given the go-ahead.
Their homes, neighboring structures on a piece of property purchased by Habitat from the city of Schenectady, were completed months ago, but the new owners were unable to take possession due to outstanding tax liens and an outstanding credit card judgment on the property. Because Habitat did not take out title insurance on the property, the organization was held responsible for resolving the judgments.
The final tax lien was resolved in early May, and closings on both properties took place May 21, according to Madelyn Thorne, a former Habitat board member who will serve as interim executive director of the local affiliate while a search for a permanent replacement is carried out.
Thorne replaces John Scharf, who is leaving Habitat for a new job after being employed there less than a year. His last day as director is May 29; Thorne takes over as interim director June 1.
With the tax liens resolved, a dedication ceremony for the Habitat home at 2106 Van Vranken Ave. will be held at 2 p.m. May 30. Thorne said a dedication ceremony was already held for the neighboring home. She did not provide a date, but said, “It was a while ago.” The Daily Gazette reported last year that a dedication ceremony was held Nov. 22 at the 2106 Van Vranken Ave. home, purchased by city residents Jose Gonzalez and Maricely Torres. The couple plan to live there with their three daughters.
A ceremony for the neighboring home, purchased by the Jovel family, was held Feb. 28. In April, Scharf told The Gazette new homeowners typically take possession of a Habitat property within 30 days of a dedication ceremony.
“In this circumstance, the closings just took us a little bit longer, so now we get to celebrate again,” Thorne said.
She said she did not know if the two families have begun to move into their new homes.
Thorne said she took on the interim director position in an effort to help improve the lives of others. An active community volunteer, she completed an unsuccessful run for state Senate against incumbent Hugh Farley in 2014. She said she took time off after the campaign to be with family and “get back out in the community in a deeper way” through volunteer work.
“When the [executive director] search began and things were moving along rather quickly, I was in a position to step in, and I’m thrilled to have this opportunity,” she said. “It’s going to be hard, it’s going to take a lot of my skills and I’m really excited to be able to do this.”
Her goals as interim director include reaching out to the city’s low-income renters and encouraging them to consider home ownership through Habitat; ensuring legislators at a local and state level know the importance of the organization’s work; and finding ways to work collaboratively with other local nonprofit groups.
“I don’t look at an interim executive director as a filler position. I plan on being here. It’s my job. I’m going to address it as a true employment position,” Thorne said.
“I’m going to be here, I’m going to work here, I’m going to give this my all.”
Habitat builds and renovates homes for low-income families who pay a no-interest mortgage held by Habitat for Humanity. The homes they purchase are built or rehabilitated by the organization, frequently using volunteer labor and donated materials.