Jim Killoran was headed to Haiti. Again.
This latest time the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Westchester was helping to build—along with former President Jimmy Carter—100 homes in a week near the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake.
"We do that because it brings attention to the need and also brings a solution," Killoran, 53, said.
The New Rochelle, NY, resident has been with Habitat for Humanity of Westchester since 1986.
At last count, the organization has built or rehabiliated 250 homes in Westchester County over the last 15 years.
He still speaks with awe of young people he meets who want to help others.
"On Columbus Day, a teenage kid calls me—and she's living in one of the worst areas of Yonkers—she wants to help," Killoran said. "She comes and volunteers every day.
"When you bring people together, amazing things happen," he said.
The Worchester, MA, native originally planned to be a priest.
"I got married, and that was that," Killoran said.
So he set his sights on helping others.
Prior to Habitat, he worked with the homeless and helped with mental health issues in Lower East Side of Manhattan, Harlem and Newark, NJ.
"My faith is my prime mover," Killoran said, "and I believe we were put on earth to help each other. When I see other people happy, I'm happy."
He is nothing if not a hands-on person, and is frequently seen around the community in action, particularly in downtown New Rochelle where his offices are located.
"If I see a lousy looking garbage can, I'm going to paint it," Killoran said. "If I see an empty abandoned building, I will paint a mural on it."
Over the summer, he convinced the owner of a vacant Main Street lot to allow him and local students to plant a garden.
"We have everything we need," Killoran said. "It's just a matter of people understanding how to get it done."
The most recent initiative for Habitat is building or rehabilitating homes for returning veterans—Habitat for Veterans.
"Right now we are increasing our call for support," he said. "I could show you 50 homes in one neighborhood" that would be appropriate for his program.
"We want to get them back to a livable condition quickly," Killoran said, adding he wants to avoid the broken window syndrome.
He calls it an aggressive neighborhood transition.
"No home in Westchester County should be empty," Killoran said. "No home in Westerchester County should be foreclosed on.
"We need to be more aggressive in this county, to help people get back in their homes," he said.