Frances Nugent (right) receives congratulations after more than 200 people sang “Happy Birthday” to her at the grand opening of the Bruyere Gardens II low-income senior housing development in Lowell. Pilot Photo/ George Martell/ Planning Office of Urban Affairs
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LOWELL -- Frances Nugent turned 99 years-old June 11, a gift that few of us will likely be lucky enough to receive. The next day, however, she was given another gift that is probably even more rare.
That day, Nugent stood alongside Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Lowell mayor Edward “Bud” Caulfield and Lowell state legislators Sen. Steven Panagiotakos and Rep. Thomas Golden as they and nearly 200 other people sang “Happy Birthday” to her.
She was taking part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the grand opening of her new home, Bruyere Gardens II, a newly constructed affordable housing complex for seniors in the city of Lowell.
Nugent was chosen through a Department of Housing and Urban Development lottery for one of the 41 new units at the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa’s D’Youville Senior Care health-services center campus.
An air of excitement and celebration surrounded the opening of the approximately $8.4 million residential community developed by the archdiocese’s Planning Office for Urban Affairs (POUA) that was backed by federal, state and local financing.
The grand opening began with a speaker program including members from the various groups that contributed to the development. Planning Office president Lisa Alberghini and Youville House president Naomi Prendergast, spoke of the impact of the development on the lives of those who will live there.
Prendergast said the addition transformed the campus into a community of its own. It’s a place where single residents and couples can live in a comfortable, safe environment.
According to Prendergast, the response from the community was “overwhelming” and there is currently a wait list, with three more residents slated to move in before the end of July.
“Our tenants of the affordable housing have become great friends to each other; they take care of each other; they really have actively worked at creating their own sense of community,” said Prendergast.
“We’re not just about health care now. We’re just about living,” she said.
According to Alberghini, many of the residents are active, independent seniors and have known each other for years, but others are moving to Lowell for the first time, joining family in the area and making new friends.
“They all share a desire to live in an apartment that is truly their home,” she said, adding that in this economy a home is a luxury many cannot afford.
“Our mission is to provide credible, affordable housing for all people in vibrant communities where they can live with dignity and in homes they can afford,” said Alberghini.
“What we find today, increasingly, is home ownership and affordable rental housing is beyond their reach,” she said.
In his address, Cardinal O’Malley thanked Alberghini and POUA staff for their passionate commitment to the mission of providing affordable housing opportunities across the Archdiocese of Boston.
All of us have the collective responsibility to ensure that decent and affordable shelter is available to our neighbors in need, he said.
The cardinal also commended Sister Pauline Leblanc, Provincial Superior of Sisters of Charity of Ottawa, for her dedication to the project and work towards bringing together the various entities whose support “made all the difference.”
“Our task is to build a civilization of love and to care for one another,” said Cardinal O’Malley. “The Sisters of Charity have been doing that for so long, and we are very blessed for their presence here, their ministry and the legacy they have established in this part of the world.”
“Certainly,” he added, “this project is another example of what needs to be done and what can be done when people of good will have a dream and the courage to follow that dream,” he added.
Mayor Caulfield said he was overjoyed to be celebrating the development that he called a “home run” for the city of Lowell.
“Even Big Papi for the Red Sox couldn’t hit a home run like the one that’s been hit here,” he said.
Rep. Golden weighed in on the importance of the development to the community at large.
“There was a tremendous need here in the city of Lowell for affordable senior housing -- clean, safe housing,” he said. “D’Youville is doing a terrific job and the new Bruyere Gardens has had an immediate positive impact on the community, especially given the effects of the economy today,” he said.
One new resident, Ettie Tyros, said that she thanks God everyday that she has found a home at Bruyere Gardens.
“I would not change places with anyone,” she said.
Another resident, Sister Anita LeBlanc, said that while she is still unpacking boxes in her third floor apartment, she loves living on the D’Youville campus.
“I walk around the park here and have been meeting a lot of people, getting friendly with the neighbors and it has been really, really great,” she said.
Sister LeBlanc had been teaching and living at St. Louis Convent in Lowell for 31 years before they announced its closing last winter.
“There are so many people who are out of their homes and then to find a place out here that is so wonderful, I feel very fortunate,” she said.