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New home getting closer to reality

July 21, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Shannon Monninger could move into her brand new home on Liberty Street by Christmas thanks to a joint venture between a church and several local service organizations.

However, the house is no holiday gift for Monninger, who will be working both to earn the right to live there and to pay for it.

Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, St. John's Episcopal Church, MIHI (Many Individuals Helping Individuals) and the Washington County Region of Episcopal Churches took part in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new "universal-designed" home in the 400 block of Liberty Street.

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The partnership Sunday took its first steps toward building the home designed to serve the needs of the electric scooter-bound Monninger. Bill Beard, chairman of MIHI, said the group's main issue has been pushing the concept of universal-designed housing like the one being built on Liberty Street.

Some of the aspects of universal-designed housing include allowing for slightly larger hallways, entries and bathroom areas to accommodate the physically challenged, Beard said.

"You can build with universal design for virtually the same amount as other homes," Beard said. "That means people can stay in their homes when they're older" or are affected by a disability.

Monniger, a lifetime city resident and a sales associate at the Liz Clairborne store in Hagerstown's Prime Outlets, was born with spina bifida and impaired hearing. The soon-to-be homeowner said she was happy and surprised to be chosen as the buyer.

"It's great, but it's scary, too - the reality is setting in," Monniger said. "Everybody dreams of having their own home but you don't know if it's going to become a reality."

Monninger, 31, was "conditionally approved" to live in the residence once it is complete, according to Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Sherry Brown Cooper. She said Monninger must complete 50 hours of service and a group of her family and friends must complete an additional 450 hours of service for Monninger to be eligible for the project.

Among the services Monninger can provide are working on other Habitat for Humanity projects, doing committee or office work for members of the partnership or volunteering for St. John's functions, according to Cooper.

Once completed, Monninger will begin to make payments on the home, according to Cooper. Cooper said the partnership is in essence providing Monninger with an interest-free mortgage.

The Rev. Scott Bellows said the fact that the four-group partnership is not just giving someone a house but helping them earn it is a great concept.

"That partnering is the key thing that makes things like Habitat for Humanity work," Bellows said. "It's not a handout, it's a hand up."

Bellows said the church and Habitat for Humanity have been working together on the project for two years. He said MIHI committed to the project in September.

Habitat for Humanity also has partnered with other denominations on similar projects, the Faith House and the Brethren House, both on Wellington Drive, Cooper said.

About $27,000 of the $55,000 needed in cash and donations of service has been raised so far, Cooper said, adding that she believes the rest will be raised by year's end. Cooper also said she hopes to have the residence ready for Monninger for the Christmas holiday season.

"It's outstanding fund-raising these guys have done," Cooper said. "(Chair of the St. John's Service and Outreach Committee) Gaye McGovern deserves a lot of credit."

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