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Home, sweet home

Family gets keys to Habitat for Humanity residence

Family gets keys to Habitat for Humanity residence

September 19, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

karenh@herald-mail.com

With tears streaming down her face, Michele Johnson realized a dream Sunday.

No longer a renter, now a homeowner, Johnson welcomed dozens of guests into her new living room where they celebrated the dedication of her Habitat for Humanity house.

"Thank you all, thank you all. I love you all with the love of Christ. My family and I, we all thank you," Johnson told a room full of volunteers.

Like Johnson, several volunteers cried as they celebrated the completion of the project on Merrbaugh Drive in Hagerstown. Just like Johnson, most were women.

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"A lot of love was put into this, a lot of sweat and, now, a lot of tears," said Sherry Beer of the building committee.

According to Sherry Brown Cooper, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, more than 250 women - most novices and first-time builders - volunteered for the organization's first-ever Women Build home. About 15 men also helped, she said.

The organization will spend the next year raising money and soliciting materials before undertaking its second Women Build home in 2007, Brown Cooper said.

"Wanted to prove something - that women are not just nurturers of the home, that we can build homes, and just empower women," Brown Cooper said.

Johnson, who turns 30 Friday, told the crowd at her home's dedication that the house would be built on love and faith. She and her daughter, Essence, 10, and son, Josiah, 8, held Bibles they were given as they thanked well-wishers.

Essence said afterward she is looking forward to settling in at the three-bedroom house.

"I feel excited, and I can't wait to move in because I finally get to have friends spend the night, and get to have fun," said Essence, a fifth-grader at Salem Avenue Elementary School.

According to Brown Cooper, volunteers have built 21 Habitat for Humanity homes in the community. Recipients must meet income eligibility requirements and be willing to contribute 500 hours of their own sweat equity, Brown Cooper said.

Recipients also must be able to show they will be able to pay off a no-interest, nonprofit loan from Habitat for Humanity, which helps pay for future projects, Brown Cooper said.

With construction finished, Johnson said she is looking forward to spending time with her children. Volunteers began the house project with a three-day Blitz Build in April.

Johnson's house with white siding and fire-engine red doors is next door to a second, beige-sided project that is nearing completion.

For 67-year-old Pat Savage, who lives nearby, the Women Build project represented a chance to get involved.

Like Johnson and Essence, Savage, a first-time home builder, was excited.

"It's almost a miracle," she said, "You feel 'at long last.'"

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