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an faith really build a family home? Yes, if the community steps forward

March 08, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

Sometimes when you take a leap of faith, good things happen. So it was for the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County, which recently found out that the Habitat for Humanity house the group agreed to build may be a bit cheaper than anticipated.

Sherry Brown Cooper, Habitat's executive director, recently told the group that she'd discovered a source for a kit home that would cut costs by as much as $2,000.

In addition, she said, the house would go up faster and there would be fewer chances for errors - like window holes placed in the wrong locations, for example.

There'd still be a lot of work to do, Cooper said, but the panels would be delivered on a trailer that would remain on site for storage while the volunteers assembled it.

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However it's built, the house will be a duplex, located on what is now a vacant lot on St. Paul Street in Boonsboro, Cooper said. While the interfaith group builds one side, another volunteer group will be responsible for the other.

Doing that will require a bunch of volunteers, some with specialized knowledge of construction and building trades and some like me, who'll be handling things like publicity.

Leading the project will be Glenn Young of Williamsport while Tim Bussard of Hagerstown has agreed to coordinate fund-raising. As of March 5, the group had raised $250 or an estimated $30,000 that will be needed.

To get youth groups involved, Tom Crawford has agreed to be the youth coordinator, while Dave Jordan, the executive director of Community Action Council, will be family coordinator.

That involves working with the Habitat family on finances and other things homeowners need to learn about when they leave renting behind.

In earlier meetings, Cooper emphasized that Habitat does not build houses and give them away. Using volunteer labor, it sells what's built to families at affordable rates.

"It's a hand up, not a handout," she said.

Getting those families sheltered will take a lot of volunteer help. In addition to the volunteers already signed on, there's a need for two or three house leaders. Those are people with some construction knowledge who can guide volunteers.

The project needs house leaders for three stages - foundation to framing, mechanicals to drywall and landscaping and exterior work.

Cooper said there's also a need for a volunteer coordinator, who will work with the house leaders to make sure there's enough labor on any given day, but not so much workers are in each other's way.

To someone like me, who can't eat a popsicle without breaking the stick, this seems overwhelming. But veterans like Bussard and Young assure me that once the work begins, things go fairly quickly.

Excavation for the foundation should begin in late June or early July, with a dedication ceremony to be held on Sunday, June 13 at 2 p.m.

Can you help? A letter will soon go out to all houses of worship in Washington County seeking assistance. If you can volunteer, please do.

If you can't, but can make a donation of cash or materials, contact Cooper at Habitat's office at 301-791-9009. Checks should be sent to Habitat for Humanity, 20 S. Prospect St., Hagerstown, Md., 21740, with the notation that they're for the "interfaith house."

Habitat is holding its annual dinner auction Saturday, March 20 at the Clarion in Hagerstown. Seating is limited, so reserve soon.

The next meeting of the group working on the interfaith house will be Monday, March 29 at 7 p.m. at the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren, located at the corner of Washington and Mulberry streets.

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