By Andy McKeever
04:36PM / Saturday, December 16, 2017
One of the first tasks the homeowners will take on is building a snowman in the yard.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Last February, Diane Sturtevant and Norma DelSonno looked at each other, knowing what the other was thinking.
They jumped into the car and took off from the Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity office and drove to 92 Clarendon St., which was then just a snow-covered lot.
DelSonno looked over the site and decided it would have enough of a yard for her family to build a snowman.
She had just been accepted into the Habitat for Humanity program and the plans were moving forward top build a home for her, her husband, and the couple's five children. They had been living in apartments and never had a yard, and the children had never built a snowman.
"When Norma applied to be one of our families, in the application they talked about how they would really like to have a yard where they could build a snowman," said Habitat Board President Tom Whalen.
On Saturday, DelSonno's son Will Jr. looked around what is now a fully built and jam-packed house for a carrot to use as a nose. Because on Saturday, Whalen handed over the keys during Habitat's 37th house dedication.
"I love that it is about changing your own life, personal responsibility, you guys stepping up," state Sen. Adams Hinds said. "This is just a special story."
It was in 2015 when DelSonno applied without telling her husband, William, ahead of time. But he was fine with it. Together they went through the financial literacy component, working with coach Sturtevant, and then found baby-sitters so they could put in 600 hours of time working on building the home alongside the numerous volunteers.
"We had over 1,700 hours of people working, over 700 volunteers," Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Carolyn Valli said.
Sturtevant struggled to hold back tears on Saturday because she wasn't just a coach for the family, she might as well be considered part of it.
"If I don't see [Norma] over the course of a couple weeks I go into withdrawals. I have already invited myself to William's high school graduation -- he is in sixth grade by the way. If we are not laughing together, we are probably crying together," Sturtevant said.
While Sturtevant was the coach, she wasn't the only Habitat volunteer to become friends with the family. When the DelSonnos walked into their home, nearly 50 people were awaiting their arrival. In the corner of the living room was a donated Christmas tree with an array of presents underneath it.
"We have never dedicated a house at Christmas before and people have just been filling in to bring all kinds of presents," Valli said.
The family was also given gifts from state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier who was unable to attend -- a rare occurrence for the representative -- but who sent a video with remarks for the family.
Matthew Russett, who works in U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's office, remember the holidays he spent in the home that has spanned three generations of his family.
"That is three generations of Christmas, Thanksgivings, three generations of backyard barbecues, birthdays, household chores, home improvement projects, and everything else that goes into making a house a home," Russett said.
He said there is no better feeling than coming home and now the DelSonnos are home. As he and others spoke, the sound of children playing downtown stairs echoed. Roberta McCulloch-Dews, from Mayor Linda Tyer's office, drew everybody's attention to it, saying those sounds make a house a home.
"This home is going to bear witness to the highs, the lows, and the in-betweens. But through it all, the consistent thing is that you will be there together," she said.
The DelSonnos will close on the house on Wednesday, taking on the mortgage and moving in. And the DelSonnos had nothing but thank-yous to everybody who helped get them through the journey and to this day.
"My family cannot thank everyone enough for helping us build our home. It has been a pleasure to work side by side with all of the volunteers who have come out to help us make our future a reality. They have made each day a lesson in building not just a home but how a community can work together to build something we can all be proud of. This means so much to our family, having a stable place to live means everything," Norma DelSonno said.