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Pa. churches build Habitat for Humanity homes

June 30, 1999

Habitat for HumanityBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Bishop Neil L. Irons traded his clerical collar for a blue collar this week, lending a hand with the construction of two Habitat for Humanity homes on Hollywell Avenue.

"It's good to get out and do some hands-on ministry," said Irons, who presides over the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church. "This is where you just don't talk about it, you do it."

Irons, whose district includes 880 churches with 186,000 members, said Tuesday it was refreshing to get away from the many meetings that usually occupy his time.

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On Tuesday about 40 people were hammering, sawing and putting up siding and shingles at the two houses. There were volunteers from Methodist churches as far away as Williamsport and Wellsboro, Pa.

The two three-bedroom ranch houses are the eighth and ninth built in the county since 1994, according to Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County Secretary Donald G. Howard.

The two houses are sponsored by the Chambersburg District of the United Methodist Church, according to District Superintendent Michael V. Minnix. The project began almost two years ago when the district distributed $50 to each of its 99 churches.

"Their assignment was to multiply it," Minnix said. By the spring of 1998, the money had grown to $85,000.

"So we had enough to sponsor two houses," he said.

Howard said the borough contributed $26,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds to help Habitat purchase the side-by-side lots for the houses.

The money raised by the church members is being used to buy the building materials.

"It generally costs $40,000 to $45,000 for the materials (for each house)," according to Habitat's construction superintendent, Harlan Bayer. "Of course, all the labor is donated."

Without the donated labor, Bayer said the houses would cost between $85,000 and $90,000.

Bayer, 77, of Waynesboro, Pa., has been a Habitat volunteer since 1990. Along with houses in this area, he has worked on Habitat homes with former President Jimmy Carter all but two of those years.

In March he was working on a house in the Philippines. Three years ago he was in Budapest, Hungary.

One of the houses this year will be purchased by Harold Curtis, a single parent from Chambersburg. Howard said Curtis has been working on the house in his spare time, often in the evenings after work.

Curtis couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Habitat requires prospective homeowners put in 500 hours of "sweat equity" into their home or perform other approved community service, Howard said.

They must also have lived or worked in the county for at least a year and meet certain income guidelines. They have to have a minimum family income of $12,000 a year, Howard said.

Habitat holds the interest-free mortgage on the house, he said.

Howard said Habitat's Family Selection Committee has picked a family for the second house, with the board of directors scheduled to vote for approval tonight.

"The church has been good to me and sent me to other parts of the world," said John Wardle, a retired teacher from Walnut Bottom, Pa. He has worked on a number of Methodist Church-sponsored projects, including one in Sierra Leone in West Africa.

Wardle brought two young volunteers Tuesday: His twin 11-year-old grandsons, Nicholas and Nathaniel.

"We're painting trim inside," Nathaniel said.

Major work on the houses will be completed this week, Minnix said.

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