ASBURY PARK, NJ -  “I just say ‘To God be the Glory,’” soon to be homeowner Rhonda Bingham expresses standing in her bright brand new kitchen of the 36 Borden Avenue home in Asbury Park.

            She is a single mother of three, and cannot wait to have all her children in one spot. Her daughter is attending Cornell University on full scholarship and plans to return to the new home after graduation. She is scheduled to move into her new home on May 7, the same day a celebratory block party is planned for the family and volunteers who worked on the house over the past nine months. She will assume a no-interest mortgage held by CHFH for $135,000, the cost to build the home. Rhonda is currently employed at the Affordable Housing Alliance in Eatontown.

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Volunteers under the direction of sixteen year old William Stallmeyer of the Lincroft section of Middletown, NJ, install plants and sod for the front garden at 36 Borden Avenue in Asbury Park. The house is the first built in a collaborative effort between the Town of Asbury Park, Coastal Habitat for Humanity (CHFH), Interfaith Neighbors and Affordable Housing Alliance to rejuvenate a blighted area of Asbury Park.

As part of this special community service project, William collected donations to plant the garden he designed for the new home. He also arranged for all the volunteers, including his fellow Middletown High School South sophomore friends, to install the landscaping. On April 30, William and his volunteers finished the plantings for the new home. A block party celebration for the complete home is planned at the home address on May 7 from 11 am to 2 pm.       

            Bingham’s home is the first of four planned by Coastal Habitat for Humanity (CHFH) in a joint redevelopment project between the Town of Asbury Park, (CHFH), Interfaith Neighbors and Affordable Housing Alliance. The project attempts to reclaim a community that was blighted 40 years ago following a turbulent period in Asbury Park’s history. The CHFH homes are all built with volunteers, and donations. On this particular day, sixteen year-old volunteer William Stallmeyer from the Lincroft section of Middletown, New Jersey, is guiding his volunteers to finish the landscaping. A beautiful Kwanzan cherry tree is staked in front of the house so it will fill the living room’s picture window with a profusion of pink every spring. The twenty volunteers, many of them William’s fellow Middletown High School South friends, are busy planting sod and a neat row of boxwoods that smartly line the front path. This day, the third and final of the landscaping project, he is also coordinating the volunteers from Supreme Consultants, whose employees signed up to volunteer on the CHFH website.

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Rhonda Bingham is pictured in her brand new kitchen in her CHFH home which was built entirely by volunteers. Rhonda states, “It is amazing! People from all walks of life come together to help someone they don’t even know just because they are willing to help and volunteer their talent and services.”

            “It is amazing!” Rhonda Bingham adds, “People from all walks of life come together to help someone they don’t even know just because they are willing to help and volunteer their talent and services. And they work together as if they have known one another for years.”

            For the past six months, William, a Lincroft resident and sophomore at Middletown High School South, has been engaged in a community service project to landscape the Coastal Habitat for Humanity (CHFH) new home. William raised approximately $1500 in donations to buy landscaping material for the Bingham home. He developed the design of the yard, secured tools and materials and recruited more than 20 volunteers to compete the work.

            William was first alerted to the project by a family friend Jane Austin who is involved in Habitat for Humanity through her Tower Hill Church’s Mission and Vision groups. Jane knew of William’s desire to find a suitable community service project, in keeping with his family’s strong volunteer tradition. When they first met, his parents worked as volunteers for the homeless in NYC. His mother Rose was a past PTO president and two-term Board of Education member ; older brother Michael is a Lincroft volunteer fireman, and older sister Elizabeth was a candy striper at the local hospital.

            William explains his attraction to Habitat, “I have always been aware of the work Habitat for Humanity had done throughout the country and I noticed the recent renewal in Asbury Park and wanted to contribute to it.” William adds, “ It was a lot of hours and hard work but I gained a lot from the experience. I learned about people and their lives outside my town, gained great landscaping expertise and developed leadership skills. The hardest part was coordinating the volunteers since I wanted to choose reliable people and hard workers…which I did! Everyone worked real hard.”

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CHFH Construction Manager Ollie Lowery is pictured flanked by two of his volunteers who worked on Rhonda Bingham’s home. They are Dennis O’Connell of Tom’s River and John Nevue from Wall Township. John is a mason lending his expertise and Dennis a retired soldier who has been on the project an average of three days a week.

            Ollie Lowery, the CHFH construction manager acknowledges that young William did an “excellent job” and continues to be humbled by the amazing volunteers that have built this house.

            “I have three regulars, Dennis O’Connell, Toms River, Karen Pryde from Holmdel and Joe Testa from Jackson who were here in this past bad winter weather when people didn’t go to their own jobs!”

            Ollie explains that the houses are built from the ground up by volunteers. A second house has already been framed. One day the workers were a team of exclusively women. Electric and plumbing is done by licensed trades, but usually at a substantial discount or cost.

            “We become a little family at the project,” he adds.

            Bingham’s home- the 13th Coastal Habitat home- was also made possible by individual area donors and sponsors, including HUD/New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, City of Asbury Park, United Way, Wachovia, First Presbyterian Church at Red Bank, Richmond County Savings Foundation, TD Charitable Foundation and Ocean First Bank.

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The finished product of sixteen-year old William Stallmeyer’s six-month Coastal Habitat for Humanity’s landscaping project is pictured with some of his volunteers on the front porch. From left to right are: volunteers (all from Middletown) Mike DeSocio, Matt Littenberg, Homeowner Rhonda Bingham; Volunteers Ryan Kernan, Andrew Agin, Steve Esposito; Will Stallmeyer, and his older brother Michael Stallmeyer. Looking over her volunteers from the back row is CHFH Back Executive Director Maureen Mulligan.

            The Habitat for Humanity mission Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry, building simple decent homes in partnership with God’s people in need. Habitat for Humanity is funded by tax-deductible donations and aided by local volunteers. Partner families invest hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” into building their home which Habitat for Humanity sells at no profit with no interest mortgages. Habitat for Humanity invites people from all walks of life to share their time, talents and resources to eliminate poverty housing from the face of the earth. For more information visit their website at www.coastalhabitat.org.