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Pitch in to Help a Shrewsbury Family

Habitat for Humanity is building a home in Worcester for the Shrewsbury family.

Construction is underway for the Habitat for Humanity project that will benefit the Bisceglia Family in Shrewsbury.

"When I moved to America, I never dreamed I would own a home," said Ornella Bisceglia, a Russian immigrant who moved to America in 2002, when she married her husband. "It was a very different environment—there is so much more technology, and in Russia there is a lot of pedestrian traffic, not a lot of cars."

In 2005, Bisceglia became a U.S. citizen and continued her education at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester. "I needed to be a full citizen to go to college," she said. "And in 2007, I earned my biotechnology degree, which continued my education from Russia, where I had studied three years of clinical labs."

But school was an extra challenge for Bisceglia because she had to translate the classes into four languages. "I had to translate the classes from Russian to Russian sign language, then to English and then to English sign language," said Bisceglia who is hearing impaired. "It was very overwhelming because I had to learn to read lips differently and I had to take a lot of notes and more typing."

With the tough economy, it took a few years for Bisceglia to find a job in her field. "I had the opportunity to go to vocational rehabilitation and learned different fields and learned how to go on interviews," she said. "I finally found a job two years ago in November of 2009 and I am a research lab technician in a biochemistry and molecular biology department in Worcester."

A friend in Florida heard about Habitat for Humanity and suggested Bisceglia find out more about it.

"I went to the Worcester office and listened to a presentation about the process and there was a lottery where people get chosen," she said. "I was chosen second, so I was very surprised and happy."

Bisceglia and her daughter, Laura Anna, who is now 10 and also deaf, will move into the home within about a year.

"They will also have to do sweat equity while the house is being built," said Chrisy Jones, developmental director at Habitat for Humanity. "They have to put in about 400 hours of community service with the organization either at their house, at another location or within the organization."

Jones said the requirement for community service really empowers the homeowner and helps them to give back before they have to start paying a 30-year mortgage.

"They will receive a no-interest loan and the mortgage will be 1/3 of their average monthly income," Jones said. "And we help them with financial classes on budgeting and home ownership."

And thank to the volunteer efforts of companies like Bank of America, many local people can get involved in the home that will be built on Fales Street in Worcester.

"Our core values are commitment to the community ," said Ed Shea, marketing president for Bank of America of Central Massachusetts. "It is fundamental to what we do."

Since 2002,  Bank of America and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation has provided more than $22 million to Habitat for Humanity and local affiliates in program and operating support. Volunteerism aligned with the Habitat for Humanity Program remains one of the largest volunteer activities in the company with approximately 20,000 hours annually of volunteer time.

"Our employees love to give back and we use Habitat for Humanity as a team building event," he said. "You can really see the employees faces light up when they can help people who are so deserving and appreciative—it's not about giving a hand out—there is a lot of sweat equity that goes into each build."

gave a $47,500 grant for the Worcester build. Shea, who is a resident of Shrewsbury, said he and his family have always been committed to community service projects. "I have four kids and we always helped out—I think it's important to get children involved."

If you are interested in helping with the project, call the Habitat for Humanities office in Worcester at 508-799-9259. They are looking for in-kind donations, monetary donations and construction help at the Fales Street project. They also are always looking for volunteers within their organization as well.

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