Building Homes from the Heart

TOMS RIVER – While many area residents were nestled warm in their homes during last week’s nor’easter, over 170 volunteers braved the heavy winds and rain to build a home for a single-mom in need. From September 30 through October 2, Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity and 100.1 WJRZ hosted the first ever Building Homes from the Heart blitz build event at the Ocean County Mall. During the weekend-long project, volunteers and local sponsors came together to begin construction on a Habitat home in the Ocean County mall parking lot for a deserving family while 100.1 WJRZ broadcasted live on-site.dsc_0007

The event kicked-off Friday morning with an opening ceremony inclusive of remarks from Mayor Kelaher of Toms River, home blessings from Pastor Sue Royle of Living Word Baptist Church and Father Scott of St. Joseph’s Parish and a National Anthem performance from the Donovan Catholic choir. The Habitat homeowner, Katiria shared her story with her young daughter and Northern Ocean Habitat Executive Director Suzan Fichtner by her side.

Under the leadership of Habitat for Humanity construction professionals, volunteer groups from local businesses, schools and organizations built wall panels for the home. The panels were then used to erect the frame of the house on Saturday afternoon where it proudly stood until its take-down Sunday morning. The Habitat home is currently in storage where it will remain until funding needs are met.

“We are determined to have this house built. This home will not sit in storage for a year and a half. We cannot be ok with that,” said Fichtner.

Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity also hosted the first ever Walk to Build 3-mile family fun walk in Lavallette earlier in September. Between both events, over $59,000 has been raised however, more funding is needed to complete the Habitat home. Help Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity reach their goal of $150,000 to build a safe, stable home for Katiria and her daughters. To donate now, visit or ‘like’ Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity on Facebook, and click the donate button.

A Seven Year Journey

Seven years ago, Executive Director Suzan Fichtner was on the job presenting at a housing meeting in Lakewood Township; seven years later, she had no idea just how full-circle it would all come.

“Katiria was in the audience, and at the time was employed by another nonprofit, S.T.E.P.S. (Solutions to End Poverty Soon),” shared Fichtner. “She quickly did the math and realized that working as a part-time receptionist, she would not financially qualify for Habitat housing.”

Habitat homeowners must be able to pay an affordable mortgage and be willing to accept the responsibilities of being a good neighbor and a positive part of the community by maintaining their home and property. Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity does not give away homes; each home is purchased with a 30-year, interest-free mortgage to a qualifying low income person or persons.

“It was at that moment, seven years ago, that this young lady started to shape her life so she could put herself in a  position to be selected for a home,” continued Fichtner.

Years later, Katiria came upon the Northern Ocean Habitat homeowner application while scrolling through Facebook.

“My ten-year-old daughter is the one that kept me pushing to fill out the application. It was at the point that I actually gave up.” she shared. “I said to myself, ‘You know what? I’m not going to fill it out. There’s a lot of people applying and there’s only going to be one homeowner selected. Who would pick me?’” Fate had other plans in mind.

“I remember I threw the application into the garbage but missed. My youngest daughter picked it up and said, ‘Look mom! I found it!’ She asked if I was going to fill it out. I paused and told myself, ‘You know what? I am – because then deep down inside I can say I tried.”

Katiria did not only try, she succeeded. After months of background checks, interviews, home visits and paperwork, Katiria and her two daughters were selected as the Habitat partner family.

“I’m just overwhelmed and blessed that I have everyone here helping me and my family better ourselves and have a better home for my kids,” Katiria said.

Katiria’s home will be built in Toms River on a donated lot township from Mayor Kelaher.

Building Homes from the Heart

Construction on Katiria’s home officially began at the Building Homes from the Heart event. Matt Knight of 100.1 WJRZ broadcasted live from the Ocean County Mall parking lot work site and was later joined by Barbara Farragher and TJ Bryan. Individual Habitat volunteers were joined by volunteer groups from Amerigas, ABCO, Builder’s General, Carl’s Fencing, Creative Click Media, Donovan Catholic High School, FloTec, Kearny Bank, Kiwanis Daybreak, Luminer Converting Group, M&T Bank, Ocean First Bank, Pine Belt Cadillac, Pine Belt Nissan, RWJ Barnabas, Shore Builders Association of Central New Jersey and Toms River High School South. Other event sponsors included Bathgate Wegener & Wolf, P.C, Ocean Pulmonary, R. Kremer & Son Marine Contractors and Revireo Inc., Seaview Orthopedics, Statewide Solar and Structural Solutions of New Jersey.

About Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity

Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit housing ministry that brings people together to build homes, communities and hope in northern Ocean County. To date, the Northern Ocean County affiliate has completed 16 new homes, 60 Hurricane Sandy critical home repairs and over 126 home repairs through its ‘A Brush with Kindness’ program. For more information and to find out how to get involved, ‘like’ Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity on Facebook, visit Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity at or call 732-228-7962.

About 1001. WJRZ

100.1 WJRZ-FM is owned by Greater Media, Inc., the parent company of 21 AM and FM radio stations in the Boston, Charlotte, Detroit, New Jersey and Philadelphia markets. Greater Media also owns a group of weekly newspapers in central New Jersey and several telecommunications towers located throughout the United States.