THANKS to the donation of one local real estate firm, a displaced Monmouth County family will have a home in the near future.
BetterHomesNJ.com V.R.I Realtors, Hazlet, has donated a condominium to 180, Turning Lives Around, the former Women's Center of Monmouth County, for use in its transitional housing program.
The realty firm, with offices also in Keyport, Middletown, Sea Bright, Brick and Woodbridge, began a "Better Homes For All" program in January, collecting a small percentage from the commissions of its nearly 100 Realtors during the last six months. "We do things like collect toys for children every year, and have good employee participation," said Larry Vecchio, the firm's owner. "This time we wanted to do something for the homeless."
Once enough money was collected to purchase the one-bedroom, one-bath condominium, Vecchiobegan looking for the best way to make it available to a homeless family in need.
"We don't have expertise in that area, of course" he said. "That's when (Keyport Mayor) John Merla suggested 180."
180, which serves those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault, offers similar housing to women and children fleeing abusive relationships.
To celebrate the donation, a key ceremony was held June 13 in BetterHomesNJ.com's Keyport office, attended by Vecchio and fellow real estate agents, as well as Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr., R-Monmouth and Middlesex, Merla and 180 representatives.
"This is a great opportunity for us to be able to work with a group like 180, and really make a difference in the lives of a family," Vecchio said in a statement following the ceremony.
The condo, Vecchio said, will be ready for occupancy Aug. 1, with his firm's employees working to get it into shape during the next month. Employee donations also will pay for furnishings, maintenance fees and utility costs. In thanking Vecchio and his employees, 180 Executive Director Anna Diaz-White said it was the first time, to her knowledge, that such a donation was made to the organization.
Using its own funding, 180 has acquired seven similar condos for its transitional housing program, used by single women or mothers and their children generally for a period of 18 to 24 months.
The donated condo, whose location in northern Monmouth County will be kept secret to better protect its future occupants, will likely be used by a small family for more than 24 months if needed, according to Diaz-White.
She also said its first occupants have yet to be decided. In addition to a number of community activities and local charity events, BetterHomesNJ.com V.R.I. Realtors also participates in federal programs such as HUD's Teacher Next Door and Officer Next Door programs, designed to help teachers and police officers purchase homes in neighborhoods where they are most needed, and Homeownership Month, designed to increase the number of minority and low income homeowners.
The firm's Hazlet office can be reached at (732) 264-2700.
- By CHRIS GALTIERI/Asbury Park Press Staff Writer