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Citi Volunteers Make Homeownership Dreams A Reality In Bridgeport

Citi volunteers help build walls Friday for a new Habitat for Humanity home in Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
A Citi volunteer paints siding for a new Habitat for Humanity home Friday. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Citi volunteers build walls for a Habitat for Humanity home Friday. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County is building a Fifth Street home for the Rodriguez family of Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — As Citi's head of operations and technology, Don Callahan usually isn’t found in work gloves, wielding a hammer.

But that’s just what he was up to Friday, as one of about 40 volunteers who left the banking world behind to prep, paint and build walls that will one day grace a Bridgeport home for Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County (Habitat CFC).

Though he works in the bank’s Manhattan offices, Callahan, a Fairfield resident, said he enjoys the opportunity to roll up his sleeves and get to work for others.

“In my view, this is like an old-fashioned barn-raising, where everyone gets involved and no one expects anything in return,” he said.

Volunteers from the leading international bank worked as part of the 11th annual Global Community Day initiative, said Lily Lopez, a Bridgeport resident who also is senior vice president for Citi Community Development.

Each year, Citi employees all over the world give back to their local communities as part of this flagship volunteer program. In 2015, more than 80,000 employees participated in 90 countries, said Lopez, who has been volunteering through the bank for about 13 years.

Due to the rain, the group worked out of Habitat CFC’s warehouse on Barnum Avenue, not far from the Fifth Street property the organization is building.

The workers started the day with a little history lesson on Habitat’s efforts in Bridgeport and beyond. The organization builds an average of 12 homes each year, more if money allows, said Habitat spokeswoman Kristen Alvanson said.

In the afternoon, volunteers were expecting a visit from the Rodriguez family, who will move into the Fifth Street home.

Elman Rodriguez moved from the Dominican Republic 30 years ago, settling in Connecticut with her daughter, 17-year-old Jaileen Fuentes. On a trip back to the islands, she met her husband, Adriano, and they went on to rent a home with their daughters, Jaileen, 11-year-old Ariana and 5-year-old McKeyla.

At times, Elman Rodriguez has worked two jobs to pay the bills.

The family applied to Habitat but knew theirs would be among 500 to 600 other applications the organization receives each year for the dozen 0-percent mortgage homes.

I was so excited,” Elman Rodriguez told Habitat staff about being accepted. “We can’t wait to have a yard big enough to grow our own vegetables. We love gardening and if we can grow our own, we can keep our costs down.”

Stuart Adelberg, Habitat CFC’s chief operating officer, said he was grateful for Citi workers efforts to make the Rodriguez’ dreams a reality.

“I believe the lack of affordable housing opportunities for hardworking families is tough,” he said. “Every family deserves a safe, decent affordable place.”

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