Habitat for Humanity restoring homes ravaged by 2016 fire


LEBANON, Pa. (WHTM) — Three years ago, a massive fire destroyed three homes on the 400 block of Cumberland Street in Lebanon.

The fire was marked the city’s worst in 30 years, leaving three buildings vacant and condemned.

This week, demolition crews started to take out the interior and rebuild the roof. Later this fall, Habitat for Humanity volunteers can begin work to give three new families homes.

“We didn’t want it to be blight. We didn’t want it to be demolished,” said Andrew Szalay, executive director of Lancaster Lebanon Habitat for Humanity. “We wanted it to be a bright light for the community.”

Three years after the properties were donated to Habitat for Humanity, the cleanup is starting.

“Once it’s all emptied out, it’s going to be like a new build on the inside of these homes and that’s when the volunteers are going to come in, doing their framing, putting in the interior, building the kitchens, the living rooms, the place where people are going to have the epicenter of their lives,” Szalay said.

The outside façade will be preserved, including the dormers and doorways.

“As you look down the rest of the street, trying to keep the pride of the area,” Szalay said.

Neighbors are excited for families to move in.

“With this here, that’s a great opportunity for a family who needs housing or low-income housing,” said Mark Mullen.

With every Habitat project, families don’t just move in for free, there is a minor stipulation.

“Our homebuyers are going to be building up their sweat equity,” Szalay said. “They have to have 250 sweat equity hours for a single head of household and 400 hours of sweat equity accumulated for a double head of household.”

Szalay says the project will cost more than $650,000 and they’re not quite at the halfway point of fundraising yet.

“Right now the biggest gift came from a $200,000 grant from the county of Lebanon because of the location, the proximity of it being here near the downtown, the historic nature,” Szalay said.

To keep construction costs low, they need more donors and volunteers, however, Szalay believes the price is worth building up the community.

“We’re very, very excited about the potential of transforming some people’s lives, building up the equity, building up their wealth over time,” Szalay said.

Szalay hopes to have the interior demolition and roof work done by October, so volunteers can begin working in November.

If you’re interested in donating or volunteering, click here.

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