Habitat For Humanity builds home for Vietnam veteran and his brother

Vietnam veteran David Stanley will have a home to call his own for the first time in his life, thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Long Island.

Mr. Stanley donned a hard hat and a tool belt Monday morning to work alongside about a dozen similarly dressed volunteers at the site of his forthcoming three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,080-square-foot home across from the Riverhead Fire Department. 

For the past 11 years, Mr. Stanley has lived in a studio apartment in Wading River. He sought an opportunity to own a home through Habitat for Humanity after learning one of his seven younger siblings would no longer be able to house their youngest brother, Russell James Stanley, 55, who has Down syndrome and is now temporarily residing with family in Connecticut. Mr. Stanley wants a home of his own to provide stability for his brother, who goes by “Rock,” after his adoration of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and keep him out of a group home.

“We’re gonna build him a home here; I’m building him a home here,” Mr. Stanley, 70, said Monday morning. “When you look at what’s happening on Long Island, there’s no way I could build a house for me and Rock or even buy a house for me and Rock, not with my income, not with my resources. This makes it happen for me and Rock. I’ve never had a place to live before that was mine, never owned anything … I couldn’t do this without these [volunteers]. What they’re doing, it’s amazing.”

Habitat for Humanity of Long Island, a local chapter of Habitat for Humanity International, builds between six and eight homes for individuals and families in need on Long Island every year with the help of various corporate sponsorships and volunteers. Once Mr. Stanley’s home is complete, he will be responsible for a 30-year mortgage, with Habitat for Humanity of Long Island holding a second mortgage.

“This home, it represents so many different things,” Jimmy Jack, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Long Island, said before the crowd of volunteers Monday. “It represents security. It represents sustainability. It represents a home of love. All of you here, we’ve got incredible hands and incredible hearts. Today, you’re going to use your hands and your heart to build a home for Dave and his brother.”

Many of Monday morning’s laborers were executive-level employees from financial, housing and construction companies sponsoring his new home.

“It’s something that we’ve wanted to do for quite some time,” said Maryellen Ferretti, one of three retail market managers from TD Bank who volunteered Monday. “We’re thrilled that TD Bank is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to do this. And the fact that it’s [for] a veteran, and also he’s supporting his brother, is like [Mr. Jack] said, it’s a triple win for us.”

Mr. Stanley stood side-by-side with other volunteers Monday morning to help raise the first wall of his new home, which he hopes will be completed by March 2025. The Brooklyn-born, future Riverhead resident served the U.S. Air Force as a photo processing specialist 1972 to 1976. He was stationed in Udon Thani, Thailand, for a portion of his service, where he processed photographs of future targets obtained by reconnaissance aircraft. After he was discharged, he worked various jobs until he was forced to retire from the construction trade after a cancerous portion of his left lung was removed in 2017. On Monday morning, he said he was clear to lift up to 25 pounds and hammer away at the Riverhead job site. That work counts toward the 300 hours of “sweat equity” Habitat for Humanity requires of him in exchange for his affordable home. 

“A day like today, we’re out for five and three-quarter hours. I’ll be exhausted tomorrow,” Mr. Stanley said. “It’s gonna be a tough one, but I still do it; I like doing it a lot. In fact, I actually think I’m finding a home and something to do … I’ll continue to volunteer with Habitat after this is all over. The people are amazing, the goal is magnificent [and] they’re doing a great job.”