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Habitat gives wheelchair-bound woman a specially designed house

April 03, 2005|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Shannon Monninger became the first Washington County resident to own a "universally designed home" built by Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, said Sherry Brown-Cooper, the organization's executive director.

"This means the world to me. I've always dreamed of having my own house," said a teary-eyed Monninger, who is wheelchair-bound, after accepting the keys to her new Liberty Street home in Hagerstown's East End.

Monninger's home is the third Habitat home dedicated this year in Washington County. Universal homes are designed to accommodate persons who are physically challenged, Brown-Cooper said.

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To accommodate Monninger's electric wheelchair, the house was built with 36-inch-wide doors. To make it easier for her to reach, there's a sink set low in a countertop, lowered light switches, raised electrical outlets and closets with lowered garment-hanging rods.

"I love it," Monninger said. "I don't have to find anything to try and accommodate myself."

In all, about 40 people attended Saturday's dedication. These included local officials as well as representatives of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, the Episcopal Churches of Washington County, and the local branch of Many Individuals Helping Individuals (MIHI Inc.).

Several people offered prayers to bless the house. The expressions of prayer included small sheets of paper tucked in behind a wall in the front room.

"Inside this wall are prayers written by our Vacation Bible School students from our church," said Bill Beard, project co-chair and member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Hagerstown.

Organizers said the house is an example of how volunteers from throughout the community have come together to make affordable and accessible housing available to those in need. The project has attracted hundreds of volunteers since its groundbreaking last spring, Brown-Cooper said.

"Some people gave their time and some gave their money. It's been quite an effort to build this house," Beard told the crowd.

Monninger, 33, who has never lived alone or away from her mother, said she hopes to move in by May, after a few finishing touches are completed.

"It's outstanding. It's wonderful," said Jackie South, Monninger's mother. "We're excited and a little scared at the same time."

Habitat will dedicate the first home sponsored by an individual couple at 2 p.m. on April 10. Also on Liberty Street, the home was sponsored by John and Teresa Barr, Brown-Cooper said.

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