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Sweat equity, love and volunteers help make a Habitat home

April 24, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Heather Pittman hosted family, friends and neighbors in her new home for the first time Sunday, but many of those people weren't seeing it for the first time.

Rather, more than 60 people over the better part of a year had put what Habitat for Humanity calls "sweat equity" into building the 1,176-square-foot, three-bedroom house on High Street.

"There's love in these walls," said Nila LaDuke, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County (Pa.).

LaDuke explained that remark was somewhat literal because workers write messages on the walls of Habitat for Humanity houses before they are painted.

The Rev. Guy Camp III encouraged Pittman to decorate the house to her liking and that of her 2-year-old daughter, Alyshia.

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"A house is a home because of what we make of it ... but when God is brought into a house, it makes it all more comfortable," he said.

The dedication of Pittman's home drew the biggest crowd in memory, officials from the Franklin County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity said.

"People will come and go from this house, and all will make a contribution," Camp said.

Pittman, 23, made her own contribution to the house by logging more than the 250 hours of "sweat equity" required of a single person by Habitat for Humanity.

The permits and plans were put into place in July 2005 and the foundation was laid that September, Carolyn Horst, president of the county affiliate, said.

"We just had settlement this week," she said.

Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County built its first house in 1994 and has constructed one or two each year since. Officials said they hope to open two more houses this year in addition to Pittman's and want to bump the average up to four a year in the future.

"Every Wednesday and Saturday, we will be working," said Chuck Neil, who was the construction supervisor for Pittman's house.

LaDuke said representatives of Habitat for Humanity tell workers that "we want you to work today as if you're working on your own home." The volunteers take a sense of pride in the construction process and have a product they can see whenever they drive past, she said.

"This is an example of faith in action," LaDuke said.

Pittman expects to move from the Marion, Pa., home of her parents, Gerald and Bonnie Pittman, to the new house this week. Alyshia has already been exploring the home and enjoys riding her bicycle around the basement, Pittman said.

"She's already picked her bedroom out," Pittman said.

Construction costs for the project totaled $75,000, and the assessed value of the past five or six homes has been double the construction cost, Don Howard, secretary of the county affiliate, said.

With the price of construction materials on the rise, the cost of Pittman's house was the highest of any Habitat for Humanity house built in the county, Howard said.

"Land acquisition is our biggest problem now. We're all the time looking for land anywhere in Franklin County," Horst said.

Anyone wishing to volunteer or contribute land to Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County may call 717-267-1899.

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