Marisa Anthony and her daughter Nayeli, one of two new Campbell River Habitat homeowner families. Photo: Karen McKinnon

Habitat for Humanity celebrates new homeowners with ‘virtual key ceremony’

Adam and Kiley Panziera and Marisa Anthony were disappointed, but understanding, when their March 27th key ceremony was cancelled due to Covid-19.

The two families had partnered with Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North (Habitat VIN) to become homeowners, and they were looking forward to the celebration that brings the community together to mark the hard work and contribution of families, volunteers and donors.

The event also signifies that the families can now move into their homes. As the virus progressed, it became evident that Panziera’s and Anthony’s move-in date could be in jeopardy.

“It was heartbreaking to us. We kept in constant communication with the families,” said Karen McKinnon, Habitat VIN’s family services manager. “They knew they weren’t the only ones this crisis affected, but providing their children with a suitable home became even more important.”

Anthony applied to partner with Habitat because she was looking for stability and affordability, two things she was unable to find in the rental market.

“If you asked me two years ago if I would own a home in two years, I would have laughed,” she explained. “I didn’t think it was something I could achieve on my own, and now it’s a reality.”

Four years ago, Adam, Kiley, and their two daughters lost their home when Kiley was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and was hospitalized for months.

“When I went into the hospital I had a home, when I was discharged I did not,” explained Kiley. “I came home to my parent’s small one-bedroom basement suite with my family.”

While she was grateful for her parent’s generosity and a place to live, it never truly felt like home. Kiley and Adam wanted to provide stability and independence for their family.

Luckily, move-in came quicker than anticipated, which Habitat VIN credits in part to the flexibility and accomodation of the City of Campbell River’s planning department. Upon finding out the units passed final inspection, the nonprofit updated the two families and immediately began planning how they could move them in safely while following social distancing procedures.

While Habitat VIN could not host the key celebration they had been excitedly preparing for, they decided to innovate with a ‘virtual key ceremony.”

“Habitat is all about building community. It isn’t just about one family who moves into their house—it’s about everyone who worked together to make that happen,” said Pat McKenna, Habitat VIN’s executive director. “These two families have worked so hard, and deserve to be celebrated. And I think everyone is looking for some good news right now.”

Volunteers, staff, and fellow homeowners submitted videos from the safety of their home congratulating the families, and the two families offered their thanks in return. The video also includes well-wishes from City of Campbell River Mayor Andrew Adams, North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney, and MLA Claire Trevena.

“This crisis shines a light on the importance of a safe, decent, and affordable place to live,” adds McKenna. “We want to continue partnering with local families, but with our ReStores closed and fundraising efforts diminished, we can only do this with the support of our community.”

To watch the virtual key ceremony, or to make a donation to support Habitat VIN’s affordable housing projects, visit habitatnorthisland.com.

RELATED: Habitat ReStores in Courtenay and Campbell River move online

RELATED: Campbell River Habitat for Humanity volunteer looks to get more women picking up tools

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