Birdhouses are synonymous with the beginning of spring and the emergence of warmer weather. This spring in Madison, however, they will not just create homes for blue jays and sparrows, but for a deserving family as well.
Starting April 16th, a variety of creatively adorned wooden birdhouses will begin appearing in store windows in Madison as part of a fundraiser for Madison Cares, a group working in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity in New Haven to build houses for those who have never owned a house. The “Best of the Nest” fundraiser invites local artists to decorate birdhouses for display in local merchant’s windows.
Started seven years ago by Mike and Ellen Maguire, Madison Cares began as an initiative to have the whole community of Madison involved with Habitat for Humanity, rather than just one specific church or hospital funding a build. “At the beginning it was: could we do one house? and that got done. Then it was like well let’s do another house,” Maureen Lopes, President of Madison Cares, says of the foundation’s beginning.
Seventh house in as many years being built
The non-profit organization is now building its seventh house in as many years, this one for New Haven resident and mother of two, Shanna Green. Green is a certified nursing assistant at a nursing facility in Wallingford as well as a nursing student at Gateway Community College. Her two children attend the Amastad School in New Haven. Green is a mom who is "very serious about education” Lopes says.
To find an ideal and deserving candidate like Green, an extensive search is conducted by Habitat for Humanity. The process includes a notice in the local papers looking for anyone who is interested in being a recipient. After applications are submitted there is additional paperwork and screening. The homeowner must commit to 400 hours of volunteer work which can either be done by the homeowner or their extended family. These hours include instruction on homeownership, budgeting, house building and maintaining a house over time.
Lopes stresses that the homeowners “are not in a poverty situation” rather they are families from lower middle income, working one to two jobs, and have never owned a house of their own. “It’s really a hand up, rather than a hand out.”
Churches and temples provide major support
Once an applicant is accepted, the task of building the house commences. Not only are there volunteers from the Green family working on the house, but from the Madison community as well. Groups such as the Rotary Club and Madison Foundation will send volunteers to New Haven on the weekends and on a few select Saturdays during the building process, students from Daniel Hand High School, 16 years and older, volunteer.
On the major support Madison Cares receives from churches and temples Lopes says, “We are wonderfully supported by the faith community, which includes Temple Beth Tikvah. Essentially all the major churches in town support us both financially and with volunteers.”
Normally, the building of a house will take 9 months. This year, however, due to the numerous snow storms, construction on Green’s house will take about a month longer and with completion scheduled for late May. Lopes explains that this is due to the fact that roof shingles weren’t able to be put on and therefore the doors, interior wall board, and windows could not be added.
Volunteers and funding needed
Not only does a Habitat for Humanity build require a lot of dedicated volunteers, but it requires a good deal of funding too; more than $50,000 per house to be exact. This is where the “Best of the Nest” fundraiser enters. This fundraiser is one in which artistically decorated birdhouses, designed by artists from across the Shoreline area, will be displayed in shop windows throughout Madison.
The birdhouse displays will include a stand, a bio of the artist, and a clipboard on which bidders may write their bid. The “Best of the Nest” fundraiser will benefit Madison Cares as well as local merchants says Lopes. “The other goal is to help the local merchants. The economy has been difficult so we want to encourage people to come down to Madison and look at the birdhouses, visit the different shops.” The birdhouses will be displayed in shops such as The Country Store, The Nosey Goose, and Anna Mia.
The idea for this fundraiser originated with a local theater in New Hampshire which was doing a similar project to raise money for productions. In Madison, all the net profits will go directly to aid in the building of the Green’s house on 12 Elliot Street in New Haven.
Artists come from range of ages and backgrounds
The birdhouses themselves are being decorated by twenty-nine artists including Yale University Art Graduate students, high school students, and members of the Madison Art Society. “The fact that there is a whole range of ages and backgrounds; it should lend itself to a lot of variety in what the birdhouses will look like,” says Lopes. The birdhouses, although normally used to feed birds, will be treated more as works of art to be admired.
The final bidding for the birdhouses will take place May 7th during the the Raise Your Roof event on Habitat for Humanity day will take place in downtown Madison during which volunteers will be building walls, garden benches, and porch railings for Madison Cares next build. The final bidding for the “Best of the Nest” birdhouses will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Lopes, who joined Madison Cares at the start of their second build, will certainly be taking part in the next one. “I find it very satisfying to do something with my hands, not just on a computer. You see it rise before you and you know what a difference it makes in people’s lives; whether it’s the volunteers or the homeowners. It makes a big difference. That got me involved and kept me involved.”
To volunteer for the Raise Your Roof event please visit: http://www.madisoncares.org