Caroline Murray/Recorder staff Amsterdam residents Manny Castro, left, Melissa Castro, center, and Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort break ground Wednesday on the first home build for Habitat for Humanity in Montgomery County.
By CAROLINE MURRAY
Manny and Melissa Castro will never forget their experience as first-time homeowners.
The married couple was selected as the Montgomery County Habitat for Humanity's first partner family to help build, purchase and own a new home -- at 82 Brookside Ave., Amsterdam.
The non-profit organization kicked off construction Wednes-day, with county Executive Matthew Ossenfort and the Castros grabbing shovels and breaking ground.
"We dreamed of this day," Ossenfort said while standing beside the Castros.
Ossenfort is the chapter's president. The organization officially formed in 2011, and has since worked on small projects throughout the county, but this project marks the group's first home build from scratch.
A crowd made up of committee members, sponsors and the Castros' relatives came out to watch the ground-breaking ceremony.
"We have worked very hard to get to this point," Ossenfort said. "We couldn't be more excited to start building our first home for such a deserving family."
The Castros have worked their entire lives to become homeowners, but through no fault of their own, have not been able to reach their goal.
Manny and Melissa Castro were both diagnosed with mild intellectual disabilities at an early age.
The couple is a part of the Liberty ARC program in Amsterdam. They met in 1990s, and were married in 2009.
Manny Castro was born in 1956 in Amsterdam. At age 19, he moved into a Liberty-sponsored community residence on Market Street. He has worked at the Amsterdam Family YMCA for more than 20 years.
Despite working his entire life, Castro was not able to save enough money to purchase his own home.
His wife, Melissa, was born into a military family in 1969. Growing up, her family moved around the world.
When she turned 18, she moved to a community residence in Palatine Bridge, also sponsored by Liberty.
She currently works at Beach-Nut Nutrition Corp. as a cafeteria assistant.
The couple lives in a second-floor apartment on Brookside Avenue -- the same street where their new home is being built.
Due to physical challenges in Manny Castro's life, climbing the stairs at his apartment has become increasingly difficult. He asked to have a one-story home -- complete with a room to store his wrestling collectibles.
Melissa Castro said she is excited to finally settle down after years of moving with her military family.
"I am excited to plant flowers outside the house, and have a home I always dreamed of," she said.
The plot of land was donated by William and Janet Agresta of Hagaman, and Stanley and Gloria Novak of Broadalbin.
They co-owned a two-story home that was destroyed during the 2010 fire at the Edy Brush Co. factory across the street.
Habitat Construction Committee Chairman Dennis Yacobucci said he has worked with the Castros in designing the home for more than a year.
The 1,000-square-foot home will feature two bedrooms, a living area, bathroom, kitchen, basement and a driveway.
Yacobucci said the organization plans to build the one-story home as energy efficient as possible.
He said the city approved the committee's building permit in April.
"Now, it is about lining up volunteers and professional builders to starting working," Yacobucci said. "Hopefully, the majority of material and labor will be donated."
The housing project is subsidized through various contributions, fundraisers and sponsors of the organization, including St. Mary's Healthcare and MCT Federal Credit Union.
Yacobucci said the group expects to start construction in the next 30 days. He said volunteers and the contractors will work Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays every week.
"We hope to have this up and buttoned up, heat on, by the end of the year," Ossenfort said.
Ossenfort said interior construction will continue throughout the winter. The hope is to have the house ready for the Castros to move in by next spring.
As a partner family, the Castros will have to volunteer 300 hours helping to build the home, and pay the low-interest mortgage and property taxes once it is complete.
"We are very excited to begin construction, and it's great to see the first steps of this project get under way," Yacobucci said.