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Boonsboro's Habitat House: Tough project, great reward

June 18, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

My mother lives in a small community near Annapolis called Saunders Point. It was one of the old Chesapeake Bay beach communities that includes Mayo and Beverly beaches.

People who owned land there built cottages for use in the summer or on the weekends, but as whole-house air conditioning became available to the masses, people began to live there year-round, as my parents did when they retired.

Next to my parents' home was an empty lot with nice big trees. After my father died, I urged my mother to buy it, even though the price for about half an acre was $15,000, which 15 years ago seemed mighty expensive.

She didn't buy the lot and when sewer came through the neighborhood, the price jumped and building a house there was much more attractive.

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Someone did build, a family with five sons, which means a lot of activity next door. One night when we brought her home from a trip, the boys next door had a skateboard ramp set up in her driveway.

No, it's not Hell's Angels, but for someone used to having things a certain way for a long time, the change is somewhat disconcerting.

I thought about my mother when some Boonsboro residents opposed the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home. I spent Thursday morning on the site and was reminded that for people used to having things a certain way, change can be difficult.

So, for that matter, is construction work. As a volunteer on this project, I was asked to place "rebar," long steel rods used to reinforce concrete.

A little bit later, I helped stack concrete blocks tossed across the trench where the foundation wall will go. Some of the younger volunteers were not content to take turns with me picking up blocks. Instead, they tried to grab each one as soon as it hit the ground.

I'm not sure whether they were just relishing the physical labor or sparing this middle-aged desk jockey a hernia, but I'm beginning to understand why my mother doesn't want people to do everything for her. Neither of us is going to whip wildcats any more, but don't put us in that pine box yet, thank you.

The Habitat crews are trying to accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time because the Boonsboro Town Council, under pressure from some residents, has passed an ordinance that would bar the construction of homes facing alleys.

Unless substantial work is completed quickly, this home won't be "grandfathered" in. If work is stopped, two families seeking their own homes won't get one.

I feel awkward being on one side of a news story such as this. It almost seems unfair, because I am a professional writer, with access to thousands of readers in a twice-weekly column. The objecting neighbors do not have my advantages, although in fairness they will certainly have plenty of access to this page.

However, I am committed to this project because the half of the duplex I'm working on is being sponsored by the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County.

Formed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the coalition is dedicated to the idea that people of different faiths can work together. Because barriers between people break down when you're involved in a project together, this is an ideal endeavor.

If you can help, we need plenty. Today, six or eight people are needed at 8:30 a.m. to prepare the site. Saturday, however, is the big day, with 40 volunteers needed to help masons lay block. Experience will be appreciated, but so will strong backs.

To get there, take Alternate U.S. 40 to Boonsboro. Turn left at the light onto Saint Paul Street, which bends to the left. Just after the bend, the site is on the left at the corner of the same alley that runs behind the Boonsboro Fire Hall.

On Saturday, July 3, Habitat will hold a yard sale to raise money for the project at the Boat America parking lot on Longmeadow Road near the railroad tracks, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you'd like to set up a table and have all profits go to the project - e-mail me at:

bobm@herald-mail.com or call 301-791-7622. Thank you.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail.

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