Rita Custer, of Aberdeen, has always been self-reliant. A former assistant manager for a Rite Aid Pharmacy, she is currently living on unemployment due to prolonged illness. She is also raising two sons, age 11 and 16.
Her oldest, Justin, has Down's syndrome and has been the victim of bullying in his own back yard. For many years, Custer's wish has been for a place where her sons could play in safety. Justin is a client of the Arc Northern Chesapeake region, and after his mother suffered two strokes, the organization stepped up to help.
Julie Chmura, Director of Development at the Arc, brought the idea to build a new deck for the Custer family before the Harford Chamber Business Resource Network, where she is a member. Joe Hurley, owner of Hurley World Travel and member of Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna's board of directors, suggested a partnership with Habitat's Repair Program, which provides emergency repairs, weatherization and accessible ramps to qualifying low-income families.
Lavender Hill Craftsmen, volunteers from the Harford Chamber group and Habitat for Humanity, along with Custer's relatives gathered recently to build a new deck for the family. They also fixed a damaged door and installed a ramp to make it easier for Custer to get around.
The project was funded primarily through the federal Community Development Block Grant program. Harford County Government, Department of Community Services, awarded the funds to Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna to allow low-income homeowners to receive up to $5,000 for critical repairs. Funding was also drawn from donations from members of the HCBRN, and from United Way of Central Maryland.