A Long Island veteran who has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity for six years received the keys to a Habitat home of her own in Ronkonkoma on Monday, surrounded by family, friends, and fellow volunteers.
Youlanda Carey, a security guard at Huntington High School who spent 20 years in the Army, is a volunteer with the school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, and has traveled with the group to Louisiana and Alabama to help at building sites. Carey, along with some of the students she works with, helped build her new home.
“Knowing that I have a home, that I can afford it, it’s amazing,” said Carey. “I briefed three-star generals like it was nothing, and now I’m here, I can’t even describe the feeling.”
The closing for the two-bedroom house was Monday morning, and, by the afternoon, it was filled with well-wishers, including some of the student volunteers who helped build the new residence.
“She was so happy, she was so excited to see this house,” said Jamie Spector, 17, a senior at Huntington High School and one of the volunteer builders.
Carey already had a car full of her things waiting to be brought into the house. She said her favorite color, pink, is going to be a staple for the décor in her new home – including a pink mixer and pink toaster.
“There’s a lot of love in this house,” said Diane Burke, executive director and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk.
Carey wasn’t given the key to her new home until a ceremony Monday afternoon, when her friend Robert Gilmor III, a dean at Huntington High School and advisor to their Habitat for Humanity chapter, presented it to her.
“When you really know the person, it just adds to it so much more,” said Quinn Blackburn, 17, a senior at Huntington High School and its Habitat for Humanity chapter president.
“I think it’s a lot more rewarding because you can see on a personal level their appreciativeness for the house,” said Kyle Shin, 17, a senior at Huntington High School and treasurer for its Habitat for Humanity chapter.
Carey applied to Habitat for Humanity in April 2015 after her living situation changed and she was renting.
“I didn’t want to pay somebody else’s mortgage,” she said.
She first received the call that she was accepted for homeownership two years ago, on Halloween.
At a school board meeting in December 2015, the high school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter revealed they were going to donate $20,000 toward Carey’s home. Carey told the kids to take a picture because it was the only time she’d ever be speechless, she said.
Carey was born and raised in Huntington so the kids tried to find a location there for her home, but the town didn’t have anything available.
Wells-Fargo donated the home in Ronkonkoma that was then demolished to make way for Carey’s new home. According to Carey, they found a piece of wood in the previous home’s ceiling beams that had a dedication on it to a Marine Corps officer from his wife. Carey plans on framing it and hanging it in her house.