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Building relationships

March 20, 2001

Building relationships



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY

andreabh@herald-mail.com

Annie LemariePhoto: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

SHARPSBURG - The most rewarding aspect of Annie Lemari's years of involvement with Habitat for Humanity hasn't been helping to build houses for families in need, she said.

It's been building relationships with people willing to turn their lives around.

"I find it incredibly inspiring that a family will open themselves and trust complete strangers to change their lives," said Lemari, 47, of Sharpsburg.

Lemari and her husband, David, helped found Habitat for Humanity of Washington County in 1994. She served as the organization's board president from 1998 to 2000.

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Habitat for Humanity is an international Christian housing ministry founded in 1976 to eliminate substandard housing and make decent shelter a matter of action. The organization has about 1,800 active affiliates in all 50 states and 63 countries.

The Lemaris were active with Habitat before they moved to Washington County in 1990, and joined a group hoping to form a Washington County affiliate several years later.

Annie Lemari, who owns Main Street Arts, has always found time for Habitat in her busy schedule as a self-employed graphic and decorative artist because the organization has enriched her life and the community, she said.

Her dedication has strengthened the local chapter, and her "freely given" knowledge made it much easier for Sherry L. Brown to become the organization's first executive director last year, Brown said.

"Annie has so many talents that she just crosses the board in Habitat," Brown said.

Lemari has served on the local chapter's fund-raising and public relations committees. She's designed brochures and helped shape policy and manage the local chapter.

As board president, she acted as the organization's "cheerleader" to help reinforce the motivation that Habitat's mission tends to foster in its volunteers, she said.

Except for Brown, Habitat for Humanity of Washington County is an all-volunteer organization with people from carpenters to legal counselors working for the same cause. Most Habitat home builders are unskilled volunteers working under the direction of professionals, Lemari said.

"Habitat is like a big basket. Everyone does a little bit to fill that basket," she said.

The Washington County affiliate has built 10 houses with volunteer labor and tax deductible donations of money and materials, and at least four additional houses are planned in 2001, Brown said.

Excluding the value of land, it costs between $40,000 and $55,000 to build a Habitat home, she said.

The homes are sold at no profit with no-interest mortgages over a fixed-period to the qualified family. Monthly mortgage payments are deposited in a Habitat fund that helps finance the building of additional homes.

Each Habitat family volunteers to help construct their home and work within the organization to help others, Brown said.

Habitat for Humanity will hold its Eighth Annual Fund-raising Dinner and Auction at the Ramada Inn, Hagerstown, on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Proceeds from the event are used to purchase construction materials.

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