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Woman works to build for others

Holiday Spirit

Holiday Spirit

December 21, 2008|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- Thanks to the commitment of volunteers like Pam Meredith, Ruth Tinney and her two teenage sons will have a new home for Christmas.

The house on Concord Street was dedicated Nov. 23, and the final inspections were completed Dec. 2, clearing the way for Tinney and her family to move in at their convenience.

Meredith, who has served as the chairwoman of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County's Women Build chapter since 2006, said she never tires of seeing the tears of joy from new homeowners and volunteers as each house is dedicated.

Meredith said Women Build is an international program that encourages women to learn skills and have a direct impact on the lives of people who are less fortunate.

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A retired South Hagerstown High School choral arts teacher, Meredith said her parents provided the inspiration for her involvement with Habitat for Humanity. They started the Morgantown, W.Va., chapter in the early 1990s, she believes, not far from where she was raised in Fairmont, W.Va.

The Meredith family moved to Silver Spring, Md., during Pam Meredith's junior year of high school because of her father's job change. That move led her to University of Maryland, College Park, for in-state tuition and a tuition-reimbursement program that encouraged students to stay in Maryland to teach.

At the time of her retirement in 2004, Meredith remembered words of wisdom from then-Superintendent Richard Wisner -- something to the effect that now she should figure out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.

She liked the idea of working with Habitat for Humanity and found a Women Build group in Annapolis that interested her. She was prepared to travel there once a week to help.

Before she even got the chance to start traveling to Annapolis, she learned a Women Build chapter was being started in Washington County in 2005. Tinney's home is the third Women Build home to be built in the county.

"It was divine intervention. It must be where I was meant to be," Meredith said.

Although she lives in Marlowe, W.Va., she comes to Hagerstown nearly every day because her friends are there. When a house is under construction, she estimates that she puts in a minimum of 40 hours a week.

"I've spent my life in Hagerstown. I've learned a lot," Meredith said. "It's in giving we receive. The people we build homes for are so happy, but the people building the homes get so much more."

The program began in 1998 and by the end of this year, more than 1,400 homes have been built by crews of women around the world.

Meredith is quick to credit the other women volunteers, as well as the men who assist and do the sub-contracting. She said that with each house, the women become more proficient.

"We have a great time. We're educationally diverse. We all have fun together building. It's a wonderful, wonderful group of women," Meredith said.

Before the next house can be built, the group needs a donation of land -- either a lot or acreage. It also needs to raise $65,000 before any work on the house can begin.

The Washington County Women Build group meets the second Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at Oliver's Pub in the Long Meadow Shopping Center.

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