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Group may help housing program

March 09, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

Four months ago, Michele Shaffer and her three children lived in a run-down two-bedroom apartment over a warehouse.

Shaffer said she had tried for two years to buy a house, but could not get a loan.

In December, she and her children moved into a new three-bedroom house on Buena Vista Avenue, courtesy of the Washington County chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Shaffer said she enjoys the independence of home ownership, while her son and two daughters adore playing in the back yard.

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On Sunday, Shaffer and other Habitat members tried to drum up support at Bethel Gardens Community Center for its next project - a vacant lot on North Avenue.

Stan Brown Jr., vice president of Brothers United Who Dare to Care Inc., a group formed last summer, said members might help.

"It's a worthwhile organization," Brown said.

"They love it," said Shaffer, who has worked at First Data Merchant Services for 10 years. "We finally have a back yard. Before, we didn't have any yard. To be a homeowner is an all-American dream."

It was a dream Shaffer thought she would never realize. But Habitat for Humanity made her the fourth homeowner since the local chapter formed in 1992.

Founded 20 years ago, Habitat for Humanity has built 50,000 houses in 47 countries. Fred Cialli, who helped start the local chapter, said the group will get to work on the North Avenue house as soon as it selects a potential homeowner.

The requirements are strict, Cialli said. A person must live in inadequate housing and must meet income criteria.

"It will be making a difference in this community because we'll be building," said Cialli, who retired from the Montgomery County school system 20 years ago.

"We are trying to give people decent housing here in Washington County."

Habitat volunteers labor mostly on Saturdays with materials that are often donated by area firms.

David Gibney, who owns a construction company, oversees the volunteers. Because the costs are minimal, the organization can afford to sell the homes cheap.

Now, Shaffer said her monthly mortgage payments are less than she was paying in rent.

Brown said Brothers United Who Dare to Care Inc. formed to work on youth issues in the community, especially drugs. He said about 15 to 20 people have been meeting since the group incorporated in November.

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