The last 20 years have been tough for Louis Fata, who lost the ability to walk unassisted while intervening in an armed robbery in 1996. But he’s always pushed through hard times, he said.
Fata, 62, was rewarded for his perseverance Thursday when Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk County presented him with the keys to a custom home in Mastic Beach, the first he has ever owned.
“I am overwhelmed with joy and hope and I just feel like I’ve been reborn and blessed,” said Fata, who depends on a walker to get around.
At a dedication ceremony with Habitat officials, Fata beamed as he welcomed the group into his new home, which is equipped with ramps, a special shower and new appliances.
In 1996, a 42-year-old Fata was working as a store manager at now-defunct department store Caldor in Glen Oaks, Queens.
One evening, a group of men with guns entered the store and forced Fata to open the safe for them. Fata said as the men prepared to leave, they tried to pull a female employee into a backroom, and he called out to them to leave her alone.
In response, the men beat him with their guns, damaging several vertebrae. Because of the injuries, Fata could no longer work. Months later, he lost his apartment lease in Bayside when his landlord needed the space herself.
Fata said he bounced around different apartments on Long Island in between surgeries, which included fusing 18 vertebrae. His rent often ran close to $2,000, eating up much of his workers’ compensation and disability checks.
About a year and a half ago, his home health aid suggested he apply for a Habitat for Humanity home, Fata said.
Diane Burke, CEO and executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk said Fata was a standout applicant.
“He put himself in the way of one of his employees who was about to be harmed and as a result became disabled,” Burke said.
Fata said he was ecstatic when he learned he would be getting the keys to a home. His mortgage payment is easily affordable at $1,100, he said, and he’s proud to own his space.
“I would have never been able to have a home to live in on the money workman’s comp and disability gives you,” he said. “Habitat came to the rescue.”
Fata said he’s looking forward to moving in next month with the help of friends and can’t wait to sit in the sun on his new back deck. The home is also close to both the beach and the Brookhaven Aquatic Center, allowing him to keep up with his swimming.
“I went through such tragedy and this was the first positive thing that happened in the last 20 years,” he said.