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Syracuse Habitat holds picnic at Long Branch Park

Felicia Graham understands what goes into building a home.

"It's a lot of work," Graham said. "A lot of work."

Graham isn't a builder, nor is she a contractor or a construction worker.

She's just a homeowner.

Graham's is one of many families to have a home built with the help of Syracuse Habitat for Humanity, a local affiliate of the national organization that builds houses for low-income families with the aid of donated materials and volunteer labor. In order to get a Habitat house, homeowners must meet certain criteria, put down a $500 deposit and invest 300 hours of labor -- "sweat equity" -- with the organization. In exchange, Habitat volunteers build a house for them and finance it with a no-interest 20-year loan.

Graham learned about Habitat through a newspaper article.

"It sounded like something I was interested in," she said. "I applied and I was approved, and now I have a house."

Graham said that aiding in the building process of her home has given her a deep appreciation for what she has.

"You learn to love your home inside and out," she said. "It teaches you values and responsibility. It's a lot of work, but it's definitely worth it. I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Picnic at LBP

Graham was one of many homeowners, volunteers, Habitat board members and family members to attend Syracuse Habitat's first annual picnic at Long Branch Park in Liverpool last Thursday. The picnic replaced the usual black-tie dinner the organization usually holds to celebrate its volunteers and its mission.

"We usually do a dinner, but this year we decided to do a picnic," said Kristen Brandt, resource development director for Syracuse Habitat. "That way we could invite the children and families of our volunteers and homeowners."

Brandt said that the relaxed atmosphere was one that everyone could enjoy and was much more in line with the nature of Habitat's volunteers.

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