Welcome Home, Najee & Francine!

New homebuyer Francine cuts the ribbon on 1156 Ward Street

Welcome Home, Najee & Francine!

On a sunny Friday morning, Habitat Chesapeake proudly welcomed its newest homeowners to Pigtown at a special home dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony. With Orioles staff and community partners in attendance, this special project marked the culmination of construction on three new-construction row homes less than a mile from Camden Yards.

The Baltimore Orioles partnered with Habitat Chesapeake to help build three new-construction brick rowhomes on Ward Street, located just off the busy Washington Boulevard corridor of Pigtown’s Main Street. Through last summer and fall, Habitat Chesapeake was joined onsite by Brandon Hyde, Manager for the Orioles, Mike Elias, Executive Vice President and General Manager, and Tim Cossins, Major League Field Coordinator and Catching Instructor, as well as players such as Tyler Wells and Ryan McKenna, to work alongside volunteers to paint and install drywall and siding. After months of sweat and hard work, Baltimore’s home team could finally welcome home the newest members of the Habitat family.

There is nothing more rewarding than coming here today and seeing Francine get her new home, right here in the shadow of Camden Yards.

— Jennifer Grondahl, Senior VP of Communciations & Community Development at the Orioles

 This project marked over a decade of work in the Pigtown neighborhood, a Southwest Baltimore community featuring the B&O Railroad Museum, a bustling main street, and proximity to the Inner Harbor and the Orioles and Ravens stadiums.

“At Habitat we often say that if the work we do was easy, then everyone would be doing it. This project was no exception,” said Mike Posko, Habitat Chesapeake CEO, as he greeted guests on Friday morning at 1156 Ward Street. “A little over 12 years ago, I started working for Habitat. This block and the 1200 block looked quite different. The 1200 block was a vacant lot. Now, it has 18 new townhomes on it with 18 new homeowners,” said Posko.

On the 1100 block, where there were once were 5 vacant and neglected rowhomes now stand three newly-constructed brick rowhomes, just across the street from two full rehabs that Habitat Chesapeake completed earlier last year. In partnership with Paul’s Place, Inc., a nonprofit community resource center just up the street, a neighborhood garden is also being plotted next door, started this spring with help from volunteer groups like Northrop Grumman.


Habitat Chesapeake was also joined by Justin Williams, Deputy Mayor of Deputy Mayor for Community and Economic Development, who congratulated Francine and the organization on this accomplishment.

“Thank you so much for all the work you’re doing. Your organization embodies the values we hold dear as a city – that every person deserves a safe place to call home. And they work tirelessly to make that vision a reality,” he said.

“The importance of affordable housing cannot be overstated. A home is not just a place to lay down your head and sleep at night. It’s also a place where people can build their lives, raise their families, build connections with their communities and have a safe home and decent place to live, which impacts their quality of life and the ability to achieve their goals.”

I knew Habitat was going to encourage me to earn this privilege and to appreciate my home. Habitat has opened my eyes to more than being a homeowner. They have challenged me to look at the bigger picture to look at the atmosphere and the world around me.

Councilwoman Phylicia Porter also joined in congratulating Francine, and remarked on the importance of affordable housing options in Baltimore.

“The housing crisis is not only just impacting persons experiencing homelessness, it impacts working adults that cannot afford to live in the city of Baltimore. And it is projects like these and partnerships with Habitat for Humanity that are not only providing a vehicle for safe affordable homeownership, but also creating generational wealth for every single person once they purchase a home,” said Councilwoman Porter.

“Welcome to the neighborhood, and I’m super excited for you!”

As Francine cut the ribbon to cheers from friends, Habitat staff, supporters, and even a group of high school volunteer from out of state, she marked the start of a homeownership journey long in the making. The youngest of nine, Francine grew up in Baltimore and experienced housing instability from an early age. Now, after earning degrees at BCCC and University of Baltimore, she works as an addiction counselor, and is vocal about her desire to be a committed homeowner and give back.

“I first heard about Habitat in 2010-2012 when I was enrolled in BCCC. While enrolled there, I got the information about Habitat, but because I was not financially stable at that time, I passed the information along to my best friend,” said Francine. Now over a decade later, her best friend and her husband are still thriving Habitat homeowners, and Francine will be joining them as members of the  Habitat family from her home on Cross Street.

“I knew Habitat was going to encourage me earn this privilege and to appreciate my home. Habitat has opened my eyes to more than being a homeowner. They have challenged me to look at the bigger picture, to look at the atmosphere and the world around me,” said Francine to cameras from local media outlets. Click the links below to watch Francine’s home celebration on WBAL and WMAR2! 

Like all Habitat Chesapeake homeowners, Francine and Najee underwent a homebuyer education program, which includes classes on home maintenance, finances, debt, taxes, and much more. They also completed 250 “sweat equity” hours in lieu of a traditional down payment, which were completed by helping build Habitat homes and serving in the Habitat Chesapeake ReStores. The program can take many months to complete, and many Habitat homeowners do so while working full-time jobs, attending school, or raising children.

“This was a two-year long process and I wouldn’t change it for all the money in the world. There were times where I didn’t think I would get through the sweat equity hours to stay in the program, but we made it!” exclaimed Francine excitedly.

Najee, who recently settled on his home on Ward Street, powered through this program and now can look forward to owning one of the newly-constructed rowhomes.

“It’s an 18-24 month program for new construction projects like this. Najee sped through it in just under the 12 month mark and settled last Friday becoming our newest homeowner in Pigtown right next door,” said Lauren Hughes, Director of Homeowner Services at Habitat Chesapeake.

For Francine, cutting the ribbon and owning her home means looking forward to hosting upcoming family gatherings and holiday dinners, and finally, finally having a place of her own to call home.

“Habitat has shown me that if you work together, any and every thing is possible,” she said.

Thanks again to our many partners and sponsors, including: The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Johns Hopkins ACCM, Maryland Food Bank, Abell Foundation, Glen Mar Church, The Catholic University of America, Stanley Black & Decker, Hart Design Build, LLC, Bank of America, DAP, DGA Construction Inc., D.W. Kozera, Inc., Northrop Grumman, Beth Israel Congregation, A & A Construction, Chaney Enterprises, J. Gallagher Architect, P.C., Paul’s Place, Brown Advisory, and the Habitat Chesapeake Red Hats. You made this project possible!

Orioles staff and players work on Ward Street in Pigtown, Baltimore.

This project is going to be a catalyst for change not only in Pigtown, but also in other areas like Brooklyn and Curtis Bay. We know these communities have not been invested in for quite some time. This is only the beginning of the partnership.

— Councilwoman Phylicia Porter


About Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake

Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake (www.habitatchesapeake.org) brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope. Since 1982, Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake has built more than 780 homes in 19 communities, providing a brighter future for 2,700 children and family members. Homeownership is proven to transform lives – improving health, increasing children’s chances of academic success and offering an opportunity to build wealth across generations. Likewise, homeownership enhances neighborhoods by bringing tangible investment, engaged, long-term residents, rising property values and a sense of community.