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Habitat for Humanity honors woman for house donation

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MASSENA - A Massena woman who donated a house to Raquette Valley Habitat for Humanity was recognized for her contribution this week.

Members of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter held a surprise open house at Emmanuel Congregational Church for Barbara Westcott, who had donated her home in 2011, making her gift the largest donation ever made to Raquette Valley Habitat for Humanity.

The house on Marie Street, Massena, was sold, and the proceeds will be used, along with other donations, to build a home for a qualifying family at a site already owned by RVHfH in Norwood.

“I knew it needed painting and some upkeep work that I wasn’t able to do. My husband and I had always done it, and I didn’t want to get into contractors,” Mrs. Westcott said.

She was also dealing with health issues, she said.

One day, she said, she thought about donating the home to Habitat for Humanity and then followed through on that idea.

“I know Norma (LaPointe, Habitat board member). I used to play bridge with her mother, so I called her,” Mrs. Westcott said. “I knew it was time. I had to do something. I was pretty sure I had enough to live alright.”

After donating the home and following approval by the RVHfH board, she said Habitat partners went in and painted and freshened up the house before turning it over to a realtor to be put on the market.

Mrs. LaPointe said a number of village and town officials, service organizations, attorneys, businesses and tradesmen, donors, painters and laborers stepped forward to help prepare the house for it sale.

Among the groups were the Massena Kiwanis Club, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, Massena Neighborhood Center, Norfolk United Methodist Church, SUNY Canton Habitat Campus Chapter and the SUNY Potsdam Zeta Gamma Sigma Sorority.

“Volunteers helped do all the cleaning and painting,” RVHfH Vice President JoAnne Fassinger said.

Cindy Atkins was the president of RVHfH at the time Mrs. Westcott donated the house to the organization.

“We were excited. We had to check the home out and see the condition and then use it as a fundraiser. It was the first time anybody ever donated a house to us,” she said. “The donation of the whole house to Habitat is a first. It has never happened before,” board member Dave Van Epps said. “If you’re on the board of a non-profit that has to raise money to build a house, it’s a huge gift.”

For Mrs. Westcott and her family, it was the end of a home that they had moved into in 1956.

“It would have been 56 years this year,” she said, noting she had three children at the time the family moved in to the home, and neighbors also had their own children. “Almost everybody was the same age. There was always a lot of kids out.”

Although Thursday’s event was supposed to be a surprise open house, Mrs. Westcott said she figured it out before her arrival at the church. She had been told by family members that they were taking her out to dinner.

“I was giving them a hard time. My niece came out. She knew how I was about surprises. I’m pretty good at putting two and two together,” she said.

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