Monday September 9, 2002
Shiny brass keys have opened more than the doors to Barry and Brenda Brown's new bungalow - they've unlocked a portal to a bright future that had once been only a dream.
And the moment they crossed the threshold of their pretty Lovilla Blvd. home, the couple was enveloped by the love of more than 500 World Youth Day volunteers from some 150 countries who put hammer to nail to build their Habitat for Humanity home.
"We've waited a very long time for this," said a visibly overwhelmed Brenda, 47, wiping away tears. "I can't begin to tell you how I feel today." "It's beautiful," whispered Barry, 46, who is severely disabled by multiple sclerosis and confined to a wheelchair. Tears of happiness and hope streamed down his face as he and Brenda, 47, looked around their two-bedroom, barrier-free home.
It's the family's first real home. When they move in Oct. 1, it will be the first time they have been able to live under one roof.
The Habitat for Humanity Toronto dream house was the social service project of this summer's World Youth Day love-in and was built metres from where Pope John Paul II celebrated mass at Downsview Park. The pontiff blessed the home from a helicopter.
The bungalow was later transported to its permanent lot near Weston Rd. and Highway 401, on land purchased from the city for $10,000.
The project was sponsored by RBC Financial Group and Dow Chemical. The Star was the official media sponsor.
The Browns and their 20-year-old son also pitched in "sweat equity" to help build the house, and have received an interest-free mortgage.
When asked what special thing she will bring to the house to make it a home, Brenda smiled and replied, "Barry."
Gloria DaSilva can't wait for her new neighbours to move in.
"I want the family to know that if they need any help, we'll be here," she said. "We're all very happy to welcome the family to our neighbourhood, and we hope they'll be happy here."
And though the Browns will never meet the all the Good Samaritans that made their dreams come true, the love that built the house will surround them always, said Father Tom Rosica, after the pair received their keys during yesterday's dedication ceremony.
The World Youth Day director called the house a "living legacy of service and charity.
"If World Youth Day had only done this, it would be successful," he added.
More than 100 neighbours and build volunteers who gathered outside the home yesterday wiped away tears when Rosica presented the couple with gifts from the Pope, including a Bible, a wooden cross and several gold keychains embossed with the Pope's image.
"The Vatican keychains are a guarantee you will never lose the keys," Rosica said with a chuckle. The crowd applauded.
The couple also received a personal letter and Canadian flag from Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Working on the build project has been deeply rewarding for The Star's Rick Orchard, who was among the volunteers.
"The thing that motivated us that day was when Barry and Brenda came
to the site," he said. "We could see the anticipation in their eyes - we
could see the future in their eyes."
© Copyright 2002 Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd