Habitat family gets good news, but fund-raising still going slow

September 09, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

As fund-raisers go, my skills are somewhere between terrible and pitiful.

Let me tell you a story that illustrates what I mean.

As a member of one local nonprofit's board of directors, one of my jobs was to call potential contributors a week before our annual fund-raiser and ask them to chip in.

Granted, telemarketers have all but ruined this method of charitable fund-raising, but I couldn't have done much worse if I'd offered a free bottle of skunk scent for every donation.

I did so poorly that I figured out that I'd have raised more money if I'd used the time I spent on the phone to work a part-time, minimum-wage job.


Perhaps that lack of skill is why Habitat for Humanity's "House that Faith Built" project in Boonsboro is $40,000 behind in its fund-raising efforts.

If I'm to blame, I would feel badly because whatever happens, I'll still go home to the house my wife and I purchased in 1978, while Dick and Dixie Sirbaugh and their 18-year-old daughter, Katie, will continue to wait.

They've been waiting for three years now, tending the lot that Habitat purchased behind the Boonsboro fire hall.

They've been waiting while a court case over the construction continues.

They've waited as writers to Mail Call have questioned why Habitat was giving them a house, even though Habitat doesn't "give" anyone a house.

In truth, the families chosen purchase their homes and must devote 500 hours to the construction of them.

The foundation of the Sirbaughs' side of the Boonsboro duplex has already been designed for the installation of hydrotherapy equipment to treat Dick for the pain he still feels after an accident he had 10 years ago.

According a Herald-Mail story done at the time, Sirbaugh was run over by a large tractor at the farm where he worked.

Though seriously injured, he walked 50 yards to a nearby house to get help. He was flown to Washington County Hospital by helicopter for a stay in the intensive care unit.

Sometime after that, he had to quit working on the farm, but the family stayed in the tenant house and began to pay rent.

Habitat officials recently announced that they would do a "blitz build" because the Sirbaughs' landlord had told them that their rent would increase in November and another couple was interested in the place.

Not so, said the landlord, who declined to be identified.

"We never gave them a notice to move. We didn't know anything about this until we read it in the paper," he said.

"When she (Mrs. Sirbaugh) came to pay the rent in September, I told her that if you're going to move in November, that's fine," he said.

They can stay, at the current rent, until their home is completed, he said, adding that there are no hard feelings.

"I liked to see people own their own homes," he said.

But the only way that will happen is if the community comes forward with some cash. The steering committee has asked 50 people, houses of worship and businesses to pledge $1,000 apiece.

I'll be one of those 50 and I've already paid $300 on my pledge. I say that not to brag, but to emphasize that I'm not asking anyone to do anything I wouldn't do myself.

If you can help, please call me at 301-791-7622, e-mail me at, or Sherry Brown Cooper, Habitat's executive director, at

So far, the largest donations have come from the Islamic Society of Western Maryland, which pledged $5,000; St. John's United Church of Christ, which donated $3,457.53; Otterbein United Methodist Church, which donated $1,000; Emmanuel United Methodist Church, which donated $500; Williamsport United Methodist Church, which donated $500; Benevola United Methodist Church, which donated $200; the Church of the Holy Trinity, which donated $186; and St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which donated $185.81.

Thanks to them and to all who've helped so far.

The next meeting of the steering committee of the "House that Faith Built" project will be on Tuesday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m. at the Church of the Brethren at 15 S. Mulberry St. in Hagerstown.

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