Lumber Stolen from Habitat for Humanity Construction Site Delays Project
By Barbara A. Preston l February 23, 2021
“It is unbelievably heart breaking,” says Meg Helms, a Montgomery resident who is also board president of the Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity. Thieves stole lumber from the construction site on Willow Road in the Belle Mead section of Montgomery, where Habitat is building a home for a single mother with four children.
Habitat officials say they reported the theft to the Montgomery Township Police Department on February 2. That is when the supervisor arrived at construction site and noticed all the lumber to complete the framing of the home was missing.
“What is heart-breaking about this robbery is it brings the work to a stop,” said Helms. “We rely on fundraising and we build homes as we receive donations from the community. With this current situation, we have to hope we can accelerate donations to get back on track.”
While police are investigating, Raritan Valley Habitat is trying to figure out how to replace the lumber on its tight cash flow.
“It was a bundle of 2 by 4s - with a value of $1,800 to $1,850 to replace,” said construction director David Polomski.
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He noted that because of the pandemic, construction supplies have been expensive and scarce, especially with the number of home improvements in the area.
“When a theft happens, it is felt across the entire build,” Polomski says.
He noted that everybody on the project is a volunteer. Even the family who will live in the home has to put in at least 500 hours of sweat equity. Cicely Caldwell of Flemington is the single mother who will move into the home with her four children, who are in high school and college. They have been working alongside the volunteers and had hoped to move into their new home in late spring.
In response to the theft, Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan said: “The township donated the land. Our community members have rallied to support the construction effort. While the theft is upsetting on many levels, I take heart from the fact that our community members have responded to this incident with generosity. We have already received a greater amount in donations than was lost. Please consider donating to this good cause.”
The theft is likely to move out the project’s completion and the family’s move-in date. Habitat is a non-profit organization that partners with families to build and improve their own homes alongside volunteers. Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity serves families in Somerset and Hunterdon counties.
How you can help
Anyone wishing to join as a volunteer when construction restarts or who would like to make a donation, may visit Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity at rvhabitat.org.
Also, the Montgomery Charity Foundation is collecting funds at: gofundme.com/f/habitat-for-humanity-montgomery. Beniamino Iovine of Beniamino’s Pizza is the top donor.