Bartlett busy with 'House that Congress Built'

December 06, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Decked out in a plaid shirt and blue jeans, U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett joined about a dozen volunteers who were building a Habitat for Humanity house in Hagerstown on Saturday.

Bartlett, R-Md., is lending more than his name and moral support to the project. He spent about an hour on Saturday morning hammering away at the foundation of the home.

The house, which is in the 100 block of East Avenue, is one of 435 across the country that representatives have pledged to support. But Bartlett said he wanted to do more than show up at a ground-breaking ceremony.

"We wanted to have a bigger role than that," he said.

Bartlett said he has helped raise about $26,000 toward the $40,000 cost of the three-bedroom house. Donations have come from Allegheny Power, Farmers and Merchants Bank and Dynamark Security Centers.


Hagerstown was chosen as the site of the "House that Congress Built" because the city has a low home-ownership rate, Bartlett said.

"We think that that's not good for the community," he said. "We're trying to change that mind set."

Deb Iturpin, executive vice president of the Washington County Home Builders Association, said volunteers planned to get the walls up by the end of Saturday. Next week, they plan to add the siding and install the plumbing and electrical wiring.

Weather permitting, the heating system will be put in the following weekend, Iturpin said.

Iturpin said the goal is to finish the house by Jan. 1.

"I love it when a plan comes together," she said.

When it's completed, Victoria Campbell and her three children will be able to move in.

Like other Habitat recipients, Campbell was selected based on need, her ability to make the mortgage payments and her agreement to put in 500 hours of "sweat equity" working on the house.

Hub City Builders and Knight Construction volunteered the labor for Saturday's construction.

"We felt like it was a good idea to get into it," said Hub City Builders owner Jim Fahey, who also is president of Washington County Home Builders Association. "Everybody works hard."

Pastor Julie Brigham, president of the Washington County chapter of Habitat for Humanity, said this will be the seventh house the chapter has built. The sixth house, sponsored by talk show host Oprah Winfrey, is under construction.

This year, there will be enough Habitat mortgages in the county to pay for the construction of another house.

Brigham said the charity works with city officials to find suitable land for Habitat homes. She said the group would like to find places outside the city as well.

"One of our biggest challenges has been to find sites," she said.

The Congress project began last year after House Speaker Newt Gingrich challenged his colleagues to get involved in Habitat by building a home in their congressional districts.

Bartlett has done more than others. For instance, when volunteers decided to put the house off the road to save a tree near the sidewalk, Bartlett pointed out that the tree was split down the middle. He said he called Antietam Tree Co. to solicit pro bono tree care.

Iturpin also noted that Bartlett competently discussed building techniques.

"He knows what he's doing," she said.

Bartlett, who worked in construction for about a dozen years, pointed to the tool belt around his waist.

"I didn't buy it at a pawn shop," he said.

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