What are your names and ages?
Kristel, 31 years old
Craig, 33 years old
Do you have children? If so, how many and what ages?
We have a biological daughter named Leah who is 5 years old. She was born with end stage renal disease and started dialysis when she was just 5 days old. She received a kidney transplant in July 2019 from Craig. He shared his spare. 😉
Carmella is technically our niece, but we got custody of her when she was 3 years old, after her mother passed away from drug addiction. Carmella is now 8 years old and calls us mom and dad. And she calls Leah sister.
Carmella’s mom is Craig’s sister. She couldn’t cope after their mother passed away and three days later, she passed from her addiction. Craig and I got custody of Carmella when all of the sisters and brothers agreed that she would be better off with us, even though we already had Leah with her health complications. Carmella also has health concerns; she has cerebral palsy and suffers from seizures. Both girls see specialists.
Where are you (both) from? How did you end up in the Hudson Valley?
We are both from Saugerties, New York. We graduated from Saugerties High School—Craig in 2006 and me in 2008. We started dating in 2006 and have been together ever since.
What do you do for work?
I, Kristel, am a homemaker. I schedule the appointments for the girls and take them where they need to go, while Craig works at Krause’s Chocolates in Saugerties.
Before moving into your current home, where else have you lived?
We lived in a small two bedroom apartment on Main Street in Saugerties. While there, we went through three different landlords in ten years time. During that time, our rugs were not changed and our walls weren’t painted, either. There was mold in the ceiling. Finally, one of the landlords took care of the mold, but we had to pay for storage while they fixed it. When the new landlord raised our rent, we said to ourselves: “What are we doing? We have two little kids and we’re going up and down 25 stairs to bring in groceries. We’re paying for someone else’s mortgage. We have no yard, no parking…”
How did you discover Ulster Habitat and why did you seek their help?
My friend Stephanie suggested that we get on board. She’s also working with Ulster Habitat and will hopefully become our neighbor! Craig and I didn’t know about the program until she told us about them and we went in.
What were you hoping for?
A place to call our own, with a yard for the girls to play in.
What was the process of working with Ulster Habitat like?
It was a great experience! We felt both challenged and excited. Along with Habitat, we had to work 400 hours, but since our youngest has such a big following on Facebook (when she needed a kidney, we’d made a FB page for her), our friends and family donated 200 hours of time to help us get our work hours in. So, Craig and I put in 200 hours, and our friends and family completed 200 hours. And we are so grateful for our community. Craig was there every weekend, and if I had a babysitter for the girls, I would be there also.
Pete was super amazing! He made us feel safe using power tools and he made sure we knew exactly what was going on. After Covid-19 struck, and our youngest was in the hospital for three months at Boston Children’s, I didn’t think it was ever going to happen, but Chris, the CEO, pushed us and reassured us that we could do it. And we did!
Did it exceed your expectations in any way?
We loved every moment! And the house is beautiful.
What is your home like?
It’s pretty amazing. The girls have their own bedrooms and Craig and I have a grown-up room. LOL. The girls get to play in the snow!!!!! And we can’t wait for summer.
Has it transformed your life?
Yes, it’s a beautiful thing to own your home.
What do you think about Ulster Habitat for Humanity?
I think it’s a great program and we made new friends while doing this.
Do you have tips for others in need of homes or starting the process with Ulster Habitat?
The hardest part is getting started. It’s the first initial step—walking in there and filling out the application. The girls helped step by step and Pete did the same for the house building part! We are so proud to be a partner family.