Volunteers spent their Halloween tackling something really frightening for some Long Island families: a dire lack of affordable housing in Suffolk.
Habitat for Humanity brought about a dozen volunteers, some of them in costume, to a Bellport house that has been under construction since spring. Instead of spending the holiday with their families, they swarmed over the one-story home, doing roofing, siding and framing work.
"I think the goal today is to get most of the front side of the shingling done," said Steph Busia, manager of partnerships and communications for the Suffolk branch of Habitat. She wore a hard hat over her Beetlejuice getup.
Laboring in costume on Halloween is something of a tradition for the Suffolk chapter of the Habitat Young Professionals, an arm of the organization that brings young adults to lend a hand at work sites.
Busia's colleague, Kathryn Gutleber, real estate manager for the county branch of the nonprofit, was dressed as "The Tell-Tale Heart" of Edgar Allan Poe fame. Hanging around her neck was a cardboard approximation of a wood floor.
Mark Miranda, 32, has spent every Saturday since late June working on the house that he, his wife and his two daughters are set to move into upon its completion.
He grew up in a housing project in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and moved to Long Island to work in manufacturing around 2005. He now works for a Farmingdale box manufacturing firm and rents a home in Bay Shore.
The Habitat project, he said, "takes a load off my shoulders."
"Every family has a checklist and one of those checks is having a house," Miranda said. "Everybody wants a house. To check that off is a big relief."
Habitat has built about 180 houses in Suffolk, 90 of which are in Bellport, Busia said. Miranda's future home is being built on a vacant lot the county seized in a tax default.
Home recipients are required to help build their houses and repay a zero to low interest mortgage with a 20- to 30-year term.
Miranda said he planned to take his daughters, ages 2 and 5, trick-or-treating when the workday was done.
"It's nice that it's on a Saturday," he said. "It's really nice to come here and do this and then go trick-or-treating."
An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the mortgage repayment terms for Habitat for Humanity recipients.