A group of nearly 45 stood in the bare white main room ready to bless the newly finished Augustin family house.
Defying the strong fresh paint aroma, most prayed in English and sang a hymn in French before scattering to peruse the bedrooms, peek into bathrooms and open closets and drawers.
Just steps away, the Alceus family home housed a similar scene.
The Saturday occasion marked the end of “Homebuilders Blitz Week” in Boynton Beach, where Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County and two local builders in a week finished the two yellow houses joining the Ocean Breeze West community running along Seacrest Boulevard.
Minutes earlier, all of the nearly 90 family members, friends, volunteers, builders and city representatives huddled under an overhang to defy the heat, share tales from making the houses and congratulate the Augustins and Alceuses. Plants, fans, afghans, appliances, food baskets and Bibles were among the items given to the families.
The upbeat dedication contrasted with Thursday’s grim announcement that a lack of hundreds of thousands of dollars has jeopardized five planned homes in the community. (http://bit.ly/18LQhnH)
Mounds of dirt marked the spaces for two houses on both sides of the Augustin house, and down the street from the Alceus house, a dozen workers were hard at work.
Current Builders senior project manager Aaron Buttress showed the cuts and nicks in his hand from the week’s hard work on the Alceus house. He was glad to see the Alceuses enjoy the house.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “To see fresh eyes come in and see the house … it was very rewarding.”
A total of 21 homes will be built, Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County Executive Director Mike Campbell said. Most are for low-income families making at most $45,000 a year, such as the Alceuses and Augustins. The rest are for moderate-income families making $55,000-$80,000 a year.
The houses sell for $115,000 with a 30-year interest-free loan for the families, he said. A year’s left to finish the project, and all the foundations have to be up by December.
“It’s just an awesome feeling,” he said. “It’s through the goodness of the community, of the businesses in the area that we’re able to do this.”
Both families said they look forward to moving into the houses in a few weeks.
Denise Alceus, a 38-year-old housekeeper in Boca Raton, moved from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2003. She said she’s happy to have a bigger space than her one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, which was too small for her kids, Schneider, 9, and Keisha, 8.
“It’s a special day for me,” she said. “I’m very excited. I like my house, everything inside it and everything outside.”
Schneider Alceus, carrying green and white plastic Habitat helmets used to decorate the tables during the ceremony, said he’s nervous about moving into a new place, but he’s excited to have his own room and is hopeful the extra space means his mom will let him keep more of the junk he loves to collect from outside.
He said he’s happy his mom will have her own space, too.
“She doesn’t have to bump into us when we’re running,” he said. “It’ll be better for us to do stuff.”
Marcelin and Marie Augustin moved to Boynton Beach from Haiti in 1994. He runs a taxi service in West Palm Beach and she works at a Boynton Beach Publix grocery store.
Daughter Talie, 20, said she’s happy to move to a bigger house and have a separate room from her sister, Abigail, 11. Not that they don’t get along, she said.
“Personal space is always nice,” she said.
The Palm Beach State College student said working with Habitat is tough but fun, saying she previously worked on a house in Lake Worth.
“It’s a great feeling,” she said. “And when your house comes, it’s a good feeling.”