The Gift

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By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director at Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, PA

I am very fortunate because I have the best job in the whole world. I get to work with an amazing team and perform a mission so essential to humanity. I get to work with incredibly generous people who want to see everyone have a decent place to live just as much as I do.  And in some cases, I get to witness the kind of generosity that doesn’t come around every day.

Recently, Habitat began working with an incredible gentleman named Lenny Bazemore. Lenny gave Habitat the gift of a home and the funding necessary to rehab it for a family. As if that is not amazing in itself, when I share the story behind the gift, you will see a man who embodies the spirit of giving and will never give up on the neighborhood that raised him and continues to inspire him.

Lenny grew up on Basin Street in Norristown and his mother still lives there today. As he is likely to tell you, they didn’t have a lot, but they had lots of love. Lenny credits his neighborhood for his upbringing, but especially the family of his childhood friend Curt Henning. Janice and Bill Henning were like second parents to Lenny, helping him keep his eye on the prize with his athleticism, his artistic talent and so much more.

When Lenny was a teen, he was recruited by several colleges for football, but unfortunately, through an unkind brush with fate, that dream was not realized. However, his mom and the Hennings never stopped believing in him and Lenny went on to do great things, including become an artist and a very successful real estate developer in the city.

Lenny never forgot his roots and stayed in touch with Curt through it all. When the Hennings recently passed away, Curt struggled to maintain their home, so he asked Lenny if he might purchase it. Lenny did so with the intent to use it as an investment property or flip it for a profit. However, upon entering the home to do the work, something didn’t feel right and he realized that this home needed a family like the Hennings to love it and be part of this amazing neighborhood that raised him.

Shortly after, he approached Habitat and offered to donate the house and $50,000 in order to update it for a family in need.  Throughout the process, it has been very important to Lenny that the home be given in honor of the Hennings – a reminder of the love they shared there and the neighborhood that was so dear to them.

When I asked Lenny “Why Habitat?”, he shared with me that he liked the work Habitat was doing to revitalize his hometown. He felt that by giving something so significant to him in such a public way, others might be motivated to help this wonderful community as well. Lenny is also a very spiritual man and Habitat’s focus on faith and family were very important to him. 

November 19th was our very special ribbon cutting, opening the home to the volunteers and staff who will be performing the rehab over the next several months. It was a chance for the community to see the “before” and to become part of the “after”. At the ribbon cutting, Lenny put out the call to others to invest in Norristown too. Already, Habitat has fielded calls from those wanting to volunteer and be part of this very special home.

When I think about how blessed I am to do the work I do, it is because of moments like this. Being a catalyst for change in the community, in someone’s life, in the future of a family, makes me feel so grateful every day. May God bless the Lenny Bazemore’s of the world and their desire to make it a better place. They make this work worth doing and doing well.