On Saturday, July 29, Lancaster-Lebanon Habitat for Humanity (LLHFH) dedicated 1824 Chestnut St., and Noemi Rymer and her family moved into the home the same day.

A banner displayed on the front porch of the residence during the ceremony. (Lexi Gonzalez)

Andrew Szalay, CEO and president of LLHFH, emceed the dedication ceremony. Leading up to the ceremony, Amy Balestier, director of development and communications of LLHFH, gave LebTown a tour of the residence.

The dedication ceremony was well-attended, with more than 30 people showing up and some holding handmade signs in support of the Rymer family. Among those in attendance were volunteers, LLHFH board members, and a Lebanon County commissioner.

During the ceremony, Szalay said LLHFH is “about making first-time homebuyers.” The non-profit’s donors and volunteers make it possible to offer the Rymer family and other first-time homebuyers a mortgage that has zero percent interest and is no more than 30 percent of their income.

Andrew Szalay emceed the home dedication ceremony. (Lexi Gonzalez)

“It’s a little bit of a different opportunity for our home buyers, and we’re very, very excited to be building in more places while we’re still committed to the city,” Szalay said during the ceremony about the residence’s location in North Cornwall Township – situated across the street from Chestnut Hill Townhouses – rather than Lebanon City.

In addition to its location, the residence is one of the first homes built or renovated by LLHFH to feature air conditioning. Moving forward, all homes built or renovated by the non-profit will feature temperature control elements, which is a direct result of feedback from LLHFH donors and volunteers.

Amy Dellinger, board chair of LLHFH, talked about the importance of having a home that is safe, warm, dry, and affordable during the ceremony.

Amy Dellinger shared her perspective of the Rymer family’s home-buying journey as board chair and realtor during the ceremony. (Lexi Gonzalez)

Dellinger recounted the Rymer family’s home-buying journey with LLHFH, which started right around when Dellinger started her journey at LLHFH as board chair. Noemi Rymer submitted an application to the non-profit and was in the home visiting process when COVID-19 struck the area.

In the midst of COVID-19 restrictions and a competitive real estate market, Dellinger, who is also a realtor, saw the listing for the house. John Newman, a foreman who also attended the ceremony Saturday, vetted the building. And Szalay purchased the house quickly, thanking board members during the ceremony for allowing him to make the purchase, which was above his usual spending limit.

The Rymer family visited the home via Zoom and pushed forward in the process, which involved contributing sweat equity hours from home.

During the ceremony, Pastor Jim Anderman blessed the home. (Lexi Gonzalez)

“We’ve gathered together to seek God’s blessing upon this house, which by God’s favor and human labor has been made ready,” said Pastor Jim Anderman of First United Methodist Church in Palmyra during the ceremony.

An all-women crew kicked off the residence’s renovation during Habitat’s Women Build Week last October and completed the renovation during this year’s weeklong event, which ran from June 7 to June 10.

Throughout the year, LLHFH volunteers helped in the demolition, cleaning — which involved removing items from the residence, including a canoe from the attic — construction, installing a porch pad, plumbing, electrical work, and painting. In total, about 120 volunteers contributed 2,800 hours of renovation work to the residence.

One unidentified volunteer worked additional hours to contribute sweat equity hours to the Rymer family in honor of the late Suzanne Ail, who served with LLHFH and other non-profits. Noemi Rymer expressed her gratitude, especially as she has been dealing with health issues impacting her legs.

“I’ll never forget how you lit up when we came to do the house match here, envisioning you and your family spending evenings on the front porch and not having to worry about the landlord and all the challenges of renting someone else’s space,” Allyson Davis, Family Services manager of LLHFH, wrote in a letter read during the ceremony. “I am so delighted you will officially have your own space.”

The Rymer family’s newly renovated residence contains white-painted walls, grayish-brown flooring and carpet, and white-painted trim. The kitchen embraces the aesthetic with white cabinetry and appliances, with its darker grayish-brown marbled countertop offering a pop of color. The first floor also contains a living room area, a half-bathroom, and a door leading to a small wooden deck area that runs along the side of the home.

The living room area on the first floor of the residence. (Lexi Gonzalez)

The staircase from the first floor to the second is accentuated by its wooden railings. The second floor contains a hallway, several bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a designated space for a stackable washer and dryer.

A bedroom on the second floor of the residence. (Lexi Gonzalez)

For the ceremony, housewarming gifts were collected and displayed on a table in front of the residence. The gifts included a handmade quilt, a toolbox for the maintenance that comes along with homeownership, a cleaning basket, a dedication of home certificate, a build book, a signed wooden bowl, potted plants, fresh flowers, food, and other goodies.

A handmade stained glass piece depicting a heart inside a home was displayed in the residence’s kitchen on a windowsill overlooking its backyard.

The gifted stained glass piece. (Lexi Gonzalez)

“Home really is where our heart is,” Balestier said of LLHFH as she presented the gifts during the ceremony.

“On behalf of Lebanon County, Commissioner Phillips, Commissioner Kuhn, and myself, Jo Ellen Litz, I’d like to present you with the keys to your home. Congratulations,” Litz said as she handed the sole pair of keys to the residence, wrapped in a big red bow, to Noemi Rymer. Many in attendance were teary-eyed.

Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz presented Noemi Rymer with the keys to her home. Noemi’s family is depicted on the left side of the frame. (Lexi Gonzalez)

“I feel excited, very happy, because all my wishes came true. And to the volunteers, thank you so much. Thank you, Jesus. And thank you for the programs like Habitat that make those dreams come true. I feel that becoming a homeowner, I can have a breath of air. … And I’m very beautiful to know that we’re in our house,” Noemi Rymer said in Spanish, translated into English by her daughter, Genesis, in a LebTown-exclusive interview.

Lebanon County Commissioners, PHFA, Santander, Berks County Community Foundation, Lebanon County Association of REALTORS, First United Methodist Church of Palmyra, Salem Church Kiwanis, Members 1st Charitable Foundation, and UGI served with LLHFH as build partners for the Rymer’s residence.

During the ceremony, Dellinger also mentioned that the non-profit is grateful for its passionate volunteers, but it is accepting more volunteers to increase its efforts to help more families become first-time homebuyers.

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Lexi Gonzalez is a reporter for LebTown. She is currently completing her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.


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