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CT mother who beat cancer gets new home in time for the holidays

Elizabeth Norman, Interior Designer at Siriano Interiors Team,
Kelsey Hubbard Rollinson
/
Connecticut Public
Elizabeth Norman, Interior Designer at Siriano Interiors Team, works inside the Housatonic Habitat for Humanity home for Synthia Steinacher.

Just in time for the holidays, a Connecticut single mother who is a two-time cancer survivor will be in her own home thanks to the nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity.

Founded in 1976, the group helps families achieve affordable housing through building and improving homes and counseling people through the process of home ownership.

Synthia Steinacher
Kelsey Hubbard Rollinson
/
Connecticut Public
Synthia Steinacher

Synthia Steinacher is the recipient of a new Housatonic Habitat for Humanity home in New Preston. She's still having a hard time believing what's happened.

“Never in a million years did I think I’d own my own house,” Steinacher said.

While raising her two children as a single mother, she said she never had the opportunity to save for a down payment.

Just by chance, however, one afternoon, she found herself at the Habitat for Humanity ‘Restore’ in Danbury with a friend.

As a self- described “life-long thrifter,” Steinacher, who had never been to the retail store before, thought it would be fun to tag along with her friend who was looking for items for his rental property.

At the checkout counter, they stumbled across a flier, which turned out to be an application for a Housatonic Habitat for Humanity home. Listed were the criteria needed, including income and credit score requirements for potential home recipients. Steinacher said her friend remarked that she fit the profile.

“I started to read the application and thought, “Oh!, it really is,” she said. “I had never been a homeowner before and I fit the criteria.”

Steinacher filled out the pre-application, which came back a match. A few days later, she received the green light to move forward with the application package. Then just over two months later, and two days before her birthday, she received a call that she was approved for the house.

“That was a really nice birthday present to have!” Steinacher said. “And that’s how it started; an unplanned trip to the ‘Restore’ in Danbury is how I was chosen to be the next purchaser of the house.”

She says it's a miracle.

Members of the Siriano Interiors Team apply finishing touches to Synthia Steinacher's Housatonic Habitat for Humanity home.
Kelsey Hubbard Rollinson
/
Connecticut Public
Members of the Siriano Interiors Team apply finishing touches to Synthia Steinacher's Housatonic Habitat for Humanity home.

Steinacher says that while she was familiar with the program, she never thought of herself as a candidate. Working as a property manager for Section 8 housing for the elderly and disabled, Steinacher described how she was familiar with matching people with subsidized housing.

“Nothing gives me greater joy than to see someone who doesn’t have to continue to worry about being home insecure anymore,” Steinacher said.

“So to really do a total 180, and have me be the recipient, is just mind-blowing!” Steinacher said. “Like when you sit down and think about it like that, I want to literally cry all the time! It’s kind of like a real fairytale for me.”

Little did Steinacher know that the fairytale surprises weren’t over. After she was chosen, she received a call from a Habitat for Humanity representative. They asked if she’d be willing to work with a “nationally well-known” designer on one of the rooms of the house.

Behind the scenes, Habitat for Humanity had reached out to “Project Runway” winner and A-list designer Christian Siriano, who lives in Westport.

“We heard about Synthia’s story and it was so inspiring and we wanted to be a part of this project immediately,” said Elizabeth Norman, Interior Designer at Siriano Interiors.

Steinacher said “yes” before knowing the name of the designer. Upon learning she’d be working with Christian Siriano and his team, she was thrilled.

“When she told me it was Christian, I was even more excited because way back, I did watch the show, I was a fan of his and I continue to be a fan of his work,” Steinacher said. “I think he's very talented and when I found out that he had lived in Danbury and that’s right next to where I am, it was even more exciting!”

In October, Housatonic Habitat for Humanity honored Siriano with the Spirit of Home Award for designing a room for Steinacher, who has battled cancer twice and is also recovering from other health issues.

“I am so excited to be able to create for someone who is so deserving of a beautiful sanctuary,” Siriano said in a statement. “A home is someone’s most sacred space and to be able to design something beautiful, comfortable and inspiring for Synthia to live her life and grow in is an honor to be a part of.”

Synthia Steinacher's Housatonic Habitat for Humanity home.
Kelsey Hubbard Rollinson
/
Connecticut Public
Synthia Steinacher's Housatonic Habitat for Humanity home.

Steinacher says the collaboration has gone well and that Shiriano and his team allowed her to weigh in on some of the big items, like paint colors and major furniture, but the overall design and layout of her living and dining area was a surprise.

Learn more
Housatonic Habitat for Humanity is building more houses in New Preston.

On Nov. 28, in partnership with Clark Construction, Habitat for Humanity will host a “Contractor’s Roundup,” which is a donation program designated for contractors and homeowners to clear out their storage spaces, basements and garages to donate usable construction materials, including sinks, vanities, windows and doors. Habit for Humanity volunteers will use the materials to help build homes.

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