Amherst Magazine

Open House

By Eric Goldscheider

Inside Kathy Perry’s new Amherst home, dismantled bookcases and stacks of boxes trace a thin trail from the front door to a dining room table piled high with papers. The freshly completed Habitat for Humanity house, built on a slice of land donated by the college, is a scene of blissful chaos.

Habitat for Humanity House
The new Habitat for Humanity house was
built on land donated by the college.
Outside, all appears calm, but inside is a
scene of blissful chaos.


Sitting among the clutter on a February evening, Perry explains that she hates moving. That’s one reason she stayed in her nearby Amherst apartment for 30 years. As a social worker and single mother, she says, she always felt homeownership was beyond her financial reach, not least because she wanted to stay in high-priced Amherst, where her daughter Rachel is in school. “I was about to lose my mind,” Perry says, recalling how she was repeatedly turned down for loans after barely missing credit thresholds.

Then, Habitat for Humanity stepped in. Key to this particular Habitat project was the college’s donation of three acres of land on Stanley Street, about a mile from campus, as well as volunteer manual labor by Amherst students, faculty and staff, among many other people. Perry’s house, completed in January, was the first to be built on the property. A second home is going up now; two more will follow.


On Jan. 20, as part of a dedication ceremony, the new homeowner offered public tours of the two-story rectangular house. A few weeks later, showing a visitor around, Perry talks exuberantly about the passive solar panels, the large windows with southern exposures, the washer and dryer, the vegetable and flower gardens. She presents a photo album of her journey to homeownership, starting with a picture of Rachel holding a homemade sign proclaiming the vacant lot her “field of dreams.” Later photos show volunteers—and Perry herself—pounding in roof shingles.
Perry is secure in her faith that order will be restored to her belongings.

Among the first items she hung on the wall was a small stitching from the Pioneer Valley chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America. It reads Home Sweet Habitat.

Photo by Andy Tew '07