David Stanley, a Vietnam War veteran, stands outside a Habitat...

David Stanley, a Vietnam War veteran, stands outside a Habitat for Humanity of Long Island construction site in Riverhead on Tuesday as workers put a roof on a residence that will become his home.  Credit: Tom Lambui

Sporting a “Habitat Homeowner” hard hat, David Stanley watched in awe Tuesday as a crew began installing roof shingles on a two-story Cape in Riverhead he'll soon call home.

“Nothing this wonderful has ever happened to me in my entire life,” the Vietnam War veteran said. “It’s quite a blessing.”

At 70, the Wading River resident will become a first-time homeowner and have space for his younger brother, who has Down syndrome, to live with him in the residence Habitat for Humanity of Long Island is building. 

Since early June, Stanley has spent most of his days toiling with volunteers and tradesmen at the St. John's Place location. To the buzz of compressor noise mixed with the rhythm of a nail gun, he has put “sweat equity” into his future home, sometimes working alongside CEOs of large companies.

Stanley, like other recipients of Habitat for Humanity homes, must volunteer for 300 hours on the nonprofit's projects to qualify for a home.

He will sign a 30-year mortgage, with Habitat for Humanity of Long Island holding a second mortgage. The monthly payment will be about a third of his retirement income, according to officials with the nonprofit.

Jimmy Jack, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Long Island, said Tuesday that housing costs are among “the biggest burdens” on Long Island.

The nonprofit has built 250 homes on Long Island since 1987, according to Jack. Four homes are under construction now in Riverhead, including Stanley’s, which will be finished in six months.

Jack said it’s “inspiring” to make dreams of homeownership come true and “even more special when we can build a home for a veteran who fought for us — for America.”

Workers installed roofing Tuesday at a Habitat for Humanity of...

Workers installed roofing Tuesday at a Habitat for Humanity of Long Island home construction project in Riverhead. A 70-year-old military veteran and his brother, who has Down syndrome, will move into the residence when it's finished. Credit: Tom Lambui

Stanley said for the last decade, he has lived in a “man cave” studio apartment. His younger brother Russell Stanley, 55, has lived with another of their siblings in Connecticut.

“His primary care has fallen onto my brother’s wife. After 30 years, she’s got to do something else,” Stanley explained.

But the family didn’t want to move Russell, who goes by “Rock” after his celebrity hero, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, to a group home.

“I’d rather have him around me,” Stanley said. “It’s more fun that way.”

Stanley, one of eight siblings, grew up in Baldwin and served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. His main job in the military was processing photos of targets that reconnaissance aircraft captured. He later worked in construction and on solar energy projects until cancer forced him to retire in 2017.

On Tuesday, a 10-person crew from King Quality, a Bohemia-based contractor, worked on the roof installation with materials the company donated for Stanley's new three-bedroom, 1,160-square-foot home. 

Jeff Brett, the business' chief executive, said the roof comes with a 50-year workmanship warranty, so Stanley “can have peace of mind.”

Stanley said while the reality of homeownership hasn't registered yet, every day brings a small epiphany. One recent morning, he passed a “Welcome to Riverhead” sign on his way to the construction site.

“I’m home,” he thought to himself.

People on Long Island share their thoughts on President Joe Biden's decision to drop out of the 2024 election and the possibility of Vice President Kamala Harris becoming the Democratic nominee. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez; Jeff Bachner; File Footage

'I think it's the best for the country' People on Long Island share their thoughts on President Joe Biden's decision to drop out of the 2024 election and the possibility of Vice President Kamala Harris becoming the Democratic nominee.

People on Long Island share their thoughts on President Joe Biden's decision to drop out of the 2024 election and the possibility of Vice President Kamala Harris becoming the Democratic nominee. Credit: Newsday/Kendall Rodriguez; Jeff Bachner; File Footage

'I think it's the best for the country' People on Long Island share their thoughts on President Joe Biden's decision to drop out of the 2024 election and the possibility of Vice President Kamala Harris becoming the Democratic nominee.

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.