BANGOR, Maine — Courtney Brangwynne likely won’t even be living in her family’s new house after it’s completed in late September, but she may have been the most excited of the five siblings assembled at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Bangor’s groundbreaking Tuesday afternoon.
“I think maybe we moved 10 times since I’ve been around. It’s been really hard for me to watch my siblings grow up and not have a steady place to live because I went through it,” said the 22-year-old, who just earned a teaching degree from the University of Maine. “I’m finally seeing my family have a stable, nice place to live. It’s too late for me, but I’m really happy to see this day.”
“This day” centered on a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site of the first home that the Brangwynnes could call their own. It’s a four-bedroom, handicapped-accessible two-bathroom, one-level house with a full basement at 180 Fifth St., property the city of Bangor donated to Habitat five years ago.
It was a big day not just for Tom and Linda Brangwynne and their five children, Courtney; Andrew, 20; Emily, 17; Tommy, 12; and Olivia, 10, but also for Habitat officials and volunteers.
“This is my first go-around with a home, and the last house this Habitat did was 2007,” said Amanda Charette, who became Habitat’s operations manager in October 2009. “We’d been losing board members and funding, but now with this new board, and opening our ReStore a year ago, our goal is to start doing two houses per year.”
Tom and Linda Brangwynne, both Massachusetts natives, said it’s the realization of a dream they had almost given up on.
“If I’d really thought about it, I would have started crying because for the longest time, I always wanted a house for my family,” said Tom, who handles accounting for the social services organization OHI.
The Brangwynnes moved their family from the Bay State to the Pine Tree State 10 years ago. It was one of 15 moves the family has made in the 25 years the couple has been married.
“My father was born in Hampden and we’d come up every summer for two weeks,” Tom said.
It was a natural fit for Tom Brangwynne. He has many cousins in Brewer; his sister works at Eastern Maine Medical Center; and his brother, who married Linda’s twin sister, transferred to GE Power Systems of Bangor. It wasn’t until his brother and sister-in-law were in a bad car accident in Lucerne that they headed north.
“We started talking about coming up here to be closer to family, but the biggest problem was finding the right housing,” he said.
Andrew Brangwynne has cerebral palsy, still suffers from daily seizures, and is confined to a wheelchair.
“The seizures were so much when he was a baby that by the time he was 14 months old, they had to take part of his brain out to help him survive,” said Linda. “He had about 40 seizures a day and now he has two a day.
“The thing is when Andrew was little, it was easy. We could live on the third floor. When he got to be 11, we started seriously looking for handicapped-accessible units.”
The Brangwynnes agreed to sign an interest-free mortgage loan agreement and put in 350 hours of sweat equity on the house’s construction.
For this family, it’s a small price to pay.
It hasn’t really hit us yet because it’s such a big deal,” said Courtney Brangwynne. “Especially for me because for my whole life, it’s been maybe someday we’ll own a house, and now it’s finally happening.”