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Housing in a hurry

âEUR~Two âEUR~blitzâEUR(TM)-built Habitat homes quickly take shape

âEUR~Two âEUR~blitzâEUR(TM)-built Habitat homes quickly take shape

April 25, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Michele Johnson and her daughter had few words to say about the rapid building progress on what is to be their home, though each wore a proud, gleeful grin.

Sharon Blair, on the other hand, had plenty of words to show her excitement, and none of them was used more than one she used to described the volunteers helping build her home next door - "angels."

Unfettered by Sunday's dropping temperatures, threats of rain and exhaustion, Habitat for Humanity volunteers plowed through the second day of the "blitz build" on Vickie Drive in Hagerstown. Many of the 210 volunteers who signed up to work at some point during the three-day project were hammering, drilling, carrying and doing whatever was necessary.

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The project had come a long way since its start Saturday at 8 a.m., when just a concrete slab existed in each of the lots.

By Sunday afternoon, nearly the entire exterior of one of the homes was nearing completion, while roofing was among the tasks being done on the other.

Sherry Brown Cooper, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, said the group, which includes volunteers from the county and a "road trippers" contingent of people from as far away as Los Angeles, is expected to finish the exteriors of both homes and much of the drywall work in one of them by today. Work will continue on Saturdays on the interior.

She said the "blitz build," a concept made popular by volunteer and Virginia resident Tom Gerdy, one of about 70 out-of-towners helping Sunday, already appears to be the most successful project for the county chapter.

"We've all been going, 'We can't believe it; we can't believe it,'" Brown Cooper said.

Johnson, who is buying one of the homes, shared the sentiment, saying she was shocked that a "home could come together in three days."

Johnson, a New York City native who has lived in Hagerstown since 1989, said volunteers were in good spirits and still having a good time at the halfway point of the blitz build.

"The atmosphere is not tense at all. It makes working much more pleasurable," Johnson said.

Johnson, a mother of two children younger than 10, had few words to express her feelings about the project. Instead, she regularly flashed a wide smile to everyone who came her way.

Blair, a Williamsport Retirement Village nursing assistant, was full of chatter.

"My prayers have been answered," Blair said. "I never thought it (owning a house) would happen. ... I always taught my kids, if you do right, God will bless you."

Blair, who has lived in the Noland Village housing complex for about seven years, said she has broken into tears many times in the past because she didn't believe she would ever own a home.

Blair took time out of the busy work schedule Sunday to talk to some of the volunteers about her children, who are 15 and 16, and things she plans to do with her yard. She even joked that her fashion for the project, which included making a trash bag into a builder's shirt, was going to become the new fad among contractors.

While some at the site could not believe how quickly the houses were going up, Blair said she was most surprised at how many people, especially those who are not from the Hagerstown area, came out to help her and Johnson realize their dreams for the three-day project.

"The way I think it, all these people here are angels," she said. "Now you know what an angel looks like."

Among those "angels" Blair pointed out were Tracy and David Day of North Carolina. Tracy Day said the couple was spending its first wedding anniversary working on the home instead of more romantic pursuits.

Tracy Day said helping others out is "what it's all about" for the couple.

"I enjoy this, the whole thing, how it comes together" she said. "You get to see a bunch of the same people. It's like a family."

Courtney Allen, a student at James Madison University, was celebrating her birthday Sunday. She traded birthday cake for her first foray into roofing, which was a "scary" proposition at times.

"It was pretty cool," Allen said. "I don't think I could've found a better way to spend a birthday."

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