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Hagerstown woman gets keys to new home

November 30, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- Cassandra Burnett is Habitat for Humanity's latest lucky homeowner.

Burnett, a single mother who has been working for Toys R Us near Valley Mall for five years, has always dreamed of owning a house for her and four of her six children.

Burnett said she contacted officials at Habitat for Humanity of Washington County years ago about getting a house through the organization but did not go through with the process.

Burnett said she recently came across a letter about her first contact with the organization and decided to give it another try.

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"And here I am," Burnett said Sunday while standing in a new single-story, four-bedroom home at 1024 Lanvale St.

Habitat for Humanity officials and volunteers, members of Burnett's family and others crowded into the home Sunday afternoon to celebrate, sing songs and recount stories of the home's construction.

Habitat for Humanity offers a shot at homeownership to low-income families who can't afford to buy homes through conventional means, said Sharon Hawkins, program administrator for Habitat for Humanity of Washington County.

People interested in buying a home through the organization must go through an application process that includes background and credit checks, Hawkins said.

Much of the construction is done by volunteers, and Habitat for Humanity seeks donations from building supply companies for the materials, Hawkins said. The expenses left after that are paid by Habitat for Humanity, and the homeowner pays those expenses back through an interest-free loan, Hawkins said.

Successful candidates must also complete 500 hours of "sweat equity," and Burnett did work such as caulking and painting.

Habitat for Humanity officials always seek donated lots for their houses, Hawkins said. A lot is purchased if a donation is not made, as was the case with Burnett's home, Hawkins said.

Habitat for Humanity officials did not have a loan amount for Burnett's home Sunday because they said settlement arrangements are still being finalized.

During the afternoon ceremony, Burnett was showered with gifts, like a Bible signed by members of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in McLean, Va., who helped raise the home's walls, a tool box and a wreath to welcome friends.

"May they only be bringing good news," said Darlyn Vestal of Hagerstown.

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity because I probably would not be able to do this on my own," said Burnett, 42, who has been living in Noland Village for about five years.

Hawkins said there has been a huge demand for the organization's homes since the economy started its downturn.

"We are desperately looking for land right now. That's one of the things that's holding us back," Hawkins said.

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