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525 help Habitat raise money for homes

April 14, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN - As a single mother raising a teenage son, Sharon Belair thought home ownership was someone else's dream.

Then she found out about Habitat for Humanity.

Now she's buying towels, a shower curtain and kitchen gadgets.

Belair is on a waiting list for a local Habitat home.

She has filled out the applications, has been approved and has completed the 500 hours of sweat equity required of all Habitat homeowners.

Within the year, she hopes to walk through her own front door.

"I'm so excited for her," said her stepmother, Deborah Belair. "I get chills every time I talk about it. I'm so proud of that girl."

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Sharon Belair is typical of many area residents who have found that housing is out of their reach, said Sherry Brown Cooper, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County.

"There is such a great need in our community," she said. "That's where we come in. Our mission is to provide affordable, safe and decent homes for families in need."

More than 525 people came together Saturday night for a dinner and auction to help raise money to enable Habitat for Humanity to continue its work.

The 15th annual event was at the Athletic, Recreation and Community Center at Hagerstown Community College, with a theme "Under Construction with Habitat." Participants were encouraged to wear construction gear, and decorations included a life-size frame of the front of a Habitat house.

Cooper said organizers had set a goal of $70,000.

"We're thrilled with the turnout," she said. "We were a little worried with the economy. But the number of tickets sold was beyond what we expected. It's great."

Cooper said more than 300 items would be auctioned during the evening, including a chance to have your name in a Nora Roberts novel, a trip to Belize, four rounds of golf at the Doral Country Club in Miami and NASCAR tickets.

Kathy Powderly, Habitat's director of development, said about 100 volunteers made Saturday's event possible - from soliciting items for the auction to helping with decorations.

"We've had such tremendous support from the community at large," she said.

Cooper said Habitat for Humanity of Washington County is a locally run affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing organization that seeks to eliminate substandard housing and make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.

Cooper said Habitat builds homes, "but we also build communities and hope."

"It changes lives," she said. "Volunteers tell us they get so much more out of the experience than they gave. And homeowners say it changestheir self-esteem."

Since 1994, Cooper said, the local Habitat for Humanity has built 26 houses. This year, the organization hopes to break ground on four houses.

Deborah Blair hopes one of those homes will belong to her stepdaughter.

"She's a hard worker, a dedicated mother and a good person. And she takes pride in everything that she does," she said. "I know she's very proud that one day soon, she's going to be a homeowner. She deserves this opportunity."

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