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North Salem Youth Lends a Hand to Habitat for Humanity

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Warren Lucas of North Salem was among a group of Providence College students who chose to spend spring break in the eastern Pennsylvania town of Coatesville, where Habitat for Humanity is erecting a complex of affordable owner-occupied houses.

“The college loaned us a white van and we drove for 6½ hours to get there,” Lucas said. “Most of the time we sang songs we grew up with, like Britney Spears. We stayed in a house next to the cemetery owned by the man who owns the graveyard. I slept on a wooden frame, but my back feels better now.”

“There were three or four houses in progress,” Lucas said. “They were in different stages of completion. Two houses had platforms but no walls whatsoever. One had exterior walls only.” The walls were prefabricated, so “we had to hoist them up, stand them up and reinforce them. They were labeled with numbers. And we got blueprints, too.”

“Habitat for Humanity is a loan system,” Lucas said. “You move into the house and you own it, but you have to pay for it, so you have to put in a few hundred hours helping to build it. You also have to attend classes to learn life skills, like money management. They’re giving people tools to help improve their lives.”

“I got involved through the campus ministry,” Lucas said. “My friend did it last year and he made a lot of new friends, so I wanted to do it, too.”

Lucas noted that Coatesville is in a high-income county, but the town is economically depressed. A 2010 presentation on CBS described Coatesville as a “city that grew alongside the steel industry and also declined with it.” 

Coatesville made the news that year when twisted steel supports from the World Trade Center were returned to Coatesville, the town where they were made by the Lukens Steel Co. in 1969. 

Lucas enjoyed his session in Coatesville, partly because of the companionship and partly for the good will it engendered.

“And I got to travel,” he said. “We went to Philadelphia. And I never saw Coatesville before.”

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