Flower City Habitat for Humanity Rochester, NY    

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The First Families of Flower City Habitat

Flower City Habitat's first decade was a remarkable time, with wonderful homeowner families at the center of it all. In 1994, with much to celebrate, a team of volunteers captured the stories and photos of seven of those families.

Read their stories and look deeply into their faces. You'll see the faces of Habitat homeowners everywhere. Times change, but the power of decent affordable housing to impact the lives of hardworking families is timeless.


Roselyn Carter

Roselyn Carter, dedicating Flower City Habitat's first house in 1985.

Francisco Teron

In Francisco Teron's hometown of Barceloneta, Puerto Rico, lending a hand to your neighbor is a way of life. It's little wonder he and his family feel right at home with Habitat.

"Where I come from," he says, "we help each other out."

The Teron residence at 156 Central Park was the second Habitat house in Rochester and the first built from the ground up. When construction started, dozens of Rochesterians tackled the project, including Francisco and his three sons.

"It feels good that you're doing something for yourself," he says.

That frame of mind brought Francisco to Rochester in the first place. In the mid-1980s, he left Puerto Rico in search of a job. After three months in New York City, Francisco moved to Rochester at the urging of a friend. He found a job at the Automobile Club of Rochester, where he still works, and sent for his family. The Terons lived in a two-bedroom apartment before moving into their three-bedroom Habitat duplex in 1987.

Accustomed to life in a small town, Francisco and his sons had to get used to the troublesome characters who loitered in their new neighborhood. But seven Habitat houses have gone up in the area, and life on the street, Francisco says, has improved a lot since they moved in.

Gwen Owes

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Gwen Owes

Gwen Owes and Quinton

Gwen Owes should be too busy to talk, but when it comes to Habitat, she has time.

Owes, a grandmother, bus driver, and full-time student, recalls the late fall day she learned she was selected to own a Habitat home.

"November was my birthday month. That was a beautiful birthday present."

By the following April, Gwen had finished her 450 hours of sweat equity. She threw a fish fry to celebrate.

"It's fantastic. I enjoy it very much. I love it. In 20 years, it's mine," she says of her home. "I don't have to move because of the landlord. If I want to paint something jet black or deep purple, I can. The complete ownership of doing what I want to do is such a wonderful feeling."

Gwen claims she has a "brown thumb," but she plants determination -- and lots of optimism -- in her garden in front of her Miller Street duplex. "I'm going to keep trying to plant something every year till I get it right."

That resolve is carrying her through coursework for a counseling degree at Monroe Community College. She wants to work with little children, "the small ones, the ones that are still vulnerable," she says. "Even though they have problems, they can still be dealt with."

Story by Sally Parker
Photos by Alloysia Haynes
October 1994

Phyllis and Ruben Lowry

When Phyllis Lowry first skimmed Habitat promotional materials as a volunteer at the Montgomery Street Center, and told her husband, Ruben, about it, he thought it sounded too good to be true.

"I said, 'Where are you going to find a house with no interest payments?'" Ruben recalls. "I thought it was a gimmick."

Fortunately for her family, Phyllis Lowry followed her instincts and applied for the first Rochester Habitat house. They were selected and moved in 1985.

In many ways, the Lowry's home, which was renovated and moved from Wilson Boulevard to its Reynolds Street address, has proved a rewarding experience. Roslyn Carter attended the dedication of their house in 1985. And the Lowrys have inherited some special memories from their home's previous owners. Rubin Lowry eventually met the woman whose father and brother built the house at its original location.

"She was my supervisor at Kodak, and she'd grown up in that house," he says. "She had a lot of stories to tell."

With six Lowry children, the stories are likely to continue.

Story by Sally Parker
Photos by Sharon Turner
October 1994

Sabrina Williams

Flower beds dot Sabrina Williams' yard at 32 Henry Street, testament to her perseverance.

"I'm beginning to get the knack of it," she says.

Growing a beautiful garden is only one area in which Sabrina has persevered in recent years. Another was being selected to own a Habitat house in 1989; she and her three children moved in the next year.

"I had just left my husband," she says, "and I really did need a place. I got an application and just started to volunteer, going to meetings."

Her most recent achievement was getting a job at AC Delco as an area supervisor. A lifelong Rochester resident, Sabrina worked at McCurdy's until the company closed its doors.

Sabrina says hearing her Habitat application had been accepted "was like a Cinderella story. It really was." She put in sweat equity building other homes and working at an orientation.

"It is a good feeling to see where the house began and how it progressed," she says. "It's a lot of responsibility, but it has character now."

Story by Sally Parker
Photos by Jeanne Verhulst
October 1994

Valerie Bryant

Valerie Bryant is opening doors she never dreamed she would open.

"Getting the house gave me the confidence I had that the future is there. As a single mother with two children, I had pretty much written off buying a house," she says.

With mortgage payments lower than the rent she'd been paying, Valerie quit her 13-year job as a credit consultant in Bausch & Lomb's Sunglass Division and started a trucking business. She and fiance Joseph Douglas lease on to a company for months at a time to pull non-perishable freight. Joseph does most of the driving of the company's solo rig, though Valerie occasionally accompanies him on shorter hauls. Business is brisk.

"When you're self-employed, you make your own time," she says. "It's like a vacation from the corporate world."

Valerie plans to expand the business to a couple of more trucks and employees. It's her way of helping the community, she says -- just as Habitat gave her and her family a fresh start.

Story by Sally Parker
Photos by Jill Gussow
October 1994

Valerie Lawrence

"I don't look at it like a contractor built it. We built it, and it's real special."

The proud owner of a home at 129 Hebard Street, Valerie Lawrence knows the power of hard work and prayerful support from friends. At one time addicted to drugs, she was at her lowest point when she moved to Rochester to stay with a friend. Moving to Wilson Commencement Park with her two children brought her the stability she needed to land on her feet again. And it was her life at Wilson that eventually drew her to Habitat. She learned of Habitat from a board member who heard her speak about Wilson at a country club luncheon.

Today a traffic administrator for Rochester Telephone Corp., Lawrence speaks highly of people from all walks of life who have helped her achieve a milestone -- folks at Church of God by Faith on Adams Street, Habitat administrators, mentors.

"You've got help, because you know you can't do it alone," she says. "It was one of my goals, to be a home owner. Dreams do come true."

Story by Sally Parker
Photos by Judy Sanchez
October 1994



Flower City Habitat for Humanity
755 Culver Road | Rochester, NY 14609
Tel: 585.546.1470 | Fax: 585.546.1549