They were his neighbors but so much more. Now he has honored their memory by buying their family home and donating it to Habitat for Humanity.
Bill and Janice Henning were like second parents to Lenny Bazemore, who grew up in the working class row houses in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Their son Curt was Lenny’s first childhood friend.
“I had a beautiful childhood—filled with family, friends and neighbors like the Hennings—and though we didn’t have much, we didn’t need much because we had each other,” Bazemore wrote to Good News Network. “I remember there were times when there wasn’t enough food, I remember poverty, but most of all, I remember love, good friends and a safe neighborhood.”
So when Curt, who had fallen on hard times, asked his old friend to buy the house where he grew up, the home across the street from where Lenny’s Mother still lives, it was nearly impossible to say no.
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52 West Basin Street, just outside of Philadelphia, was where Janice and Bill taught the neighborhood boys the meaning of brotherhood, discipline, and caring for others. Before Janice passed she said to Bazemore, who grew into a successful businessman, “Please look out for Curt.”
The real estate investor and owner of Bazemore Design Group and Bazemore Enterprises wondered if he realistically could flip the property. How could he earn a return on his investment with a projected purchase price of $45,000?
But something didn’t feel ‘right’ about it.
“I drove around my old neighborhood thinking about what I could do to make it great again,” Bazemore says. “And then it struck me. ‘Don’t renovate the house for financial gain. Give it away to a family who needs it more than I do.’”
He decided to donate 52 West Basin Street to Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County along with $50,000 to renovate and make it an energy efficient home. In 2016 it will go to a deserving family who will finally achieve their dream of home ownership.
After he purchased and donated the home, he moved Curt, who had no job, into one of his apartments in Manayunk and gave him a job.
“Donating the Henning house gave me a beautiful feeling, and it feels good do the Lord’s work,” Bazemore added. “Certainly, not everyone can give away a house. But in this season of giving, I hope that everyone will open their hearts and offer what they can to help someone else’s dreams come true.”
The Habitat for Humanity photo above shows Lenny at the ribbon-cutting, November 19, when work officially began on the Norristown residence where he learned the meaning of caring for family.