Habitat for Humanity holds first virtual home dedication ceremony

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s a Habitat for Humanity tradition to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ outside for the dedication of a new home. But during this pandemic, traditions change.

“This one, I must say is the most different we’ve done in Buffalo. We’ve never had a Zoom call before, or a virtual dedication,” said Teresa Bianchi, the executive director for Habitat for Humanity Buffalo.

Habitat for Humanity held its first virtual dedication via Zoom Saturday. Several people joined the call to hear from the new homeowner, Yasmin Santiago and her family.

“I can’t thank you guys enough from the volunteers to the construction, to everybody in the office, you guys are amazing,” said Yasmin Santiago.

She says she was introduced to Habitat for Humanity thanks to her mother-in-law, who’s home was also built through the organization.

“I helped her when she was doing her Habitat hours, so I helped volunteer building her house with her,” said Santiago.

While the traditional ceremony changed this time around, two things remained the same, the presentation of the hammer and bible. There was even a virtual tour.

Teresa Bianchi with Habitat for Humanity says it’s been tough during the pandemic, but volunteers have been dedicated.

“Before affordable housing was deemed an essential service we were told to stop building and Habitat staff said we’re going to go until we’re told we can’t go,” said Bianchi.

That’s something Santiago says she appreciates, as she and her family begin to make this new house into a family home.

“Being in a house that I know my kids are safe in, that they can grow up in and hopefully I can pass this down to them and their kids, it means a lot to all of us,” said Santiago.

Shannon Smith is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.

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