Last week we celebrated World Habitat Day.

The United Nations has set aside the first Monday of October as the day for us to think about how we can participate in grassroots efforts to eliminate poverty housing in the world.

Habitat for Humanity International and its 1,500 affiliates across America are together one of the strongest grassroots efforts addressing poverty housing.

In this country, we often hear people describe Habitat for Humanity as an organization that helps families achieve the goal of the American Dream to own a home. What is the American Dream? When it was coined, it was meant to refer to the right of all to prosperity, education and opportunity. But somewhere along the way it has morphed into being a synonym for owning a home.

In the world of Habitat for Humanity, we provide simple, decent and affordable housing to families that do not qualify for conventional mortgages and yet are capable of making monthly payments on 0 percent interest mortgages. For them, the big deal is not about owning a home. It is about the right to raise a family in housing that neither causes sickness nor strains the family's budget to the point that critical decisions between purchasing food or paying a mortgage are an issue.

The United Nations' World Habitat Day is about making sure that all people, everywhere, from Massachusetts or Mozambique, New England or New Guinea, have access to the basic human right of decent housing. The real dream for our families is not just about owning a home. It is about having a place called home where they can put down their roots, raise their children in health and safety, get involved in the community and the schools and give their children a better chance of success.

For 25 years, volunteers and donors have strengthened the mission of Habitat for Humanity as North Central Massachusetts made it possible for families to thrive in their new homes. We are celebrating these 25 years at a dinner open to the public on Oct. 24 at the Holiday Inn, Boxborough. Best-selling author Andre Dubus III will be the keynote speaker, sharing stories of his own upbringing in poverty housing in Haverhill in the 1970s. He will also read from his new book, "Dirty Love," published Oct. 7.

For information on the local mission of Habitat for Humanity North Central Massachusetts or to purchase tickets for the event, please go to ncmhabitat.org.

In gratitude for all the volunteers and donors who have supported our mission in 25 towns and for 25 years,

MAGGIE MONROE-CASSEL

Executive Director

Habitat for Humanity North Central Massachusetts, Inc.