Woman helps others realize dreams of home ownership

December 08, 2017 10:03 AM

Bonnie Hayden of Pittsfield still marvels at having her own piece of the rock – her home. It's a miracle she thought would never happen.

“I never felt that I was good enough [or] that I was worthy,” she said. “I thought I was invisible.”

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That's because for years she's been awash in poverty, debt and other challenges which forced her to live in substandard housing.

“We ended up going from one bad apartment to another,” she said.

That was until she was introduced to the Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity. It was stories like Hayden’s that attracted Executive Director Carolyn Valli to the job seven years ago.

“I believe home ownership is every person's right,” Valli said.

Helping people get a home was something she'd done in a previous job as a mortgage underwriter. But she knew there were many who couldn't go the traditional way and made it her mission to figure out why.

“They had too much debt, [and their] credit was not good [enough] to qualify for Habitat,” Valli said. “Getting a home creates stability in peoples lives. Education is better. Health is better. Opportunities are better.”

She collaborated with community partners. She created financial education programs and courses to help people see their way out of poverty.

It has worked for many people, including Hayden. Having it has changed her life and her children's.

“He got his dream job and he's going to college,” Hayden said.

Valli was recognized for her commitment to helping others get homes with an award from Trustco Bank. Her reply? It's a job she was made for. It's in her bones.

“The one thing I love about Habitat is that it has always been about a hand up, not a hand out,” Valli said.


WNYT Staff

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