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Panhandle Habitat's first green 'blitz build' home goes up

October 19, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- While moving the keys to her new home between her fingers, Delilah Johnson beamed with excitement on Monday.

"It's amazing," Johnson said after the dedication program for her first home at 303 Rothwell Ave. in Martinsburg, the first green "blitz build" project by Habitat for Humanity of the Eastern Panhandle.

While cardboard still covered much of the bamboo flooring to protect it from ongoing construction, and the 1,112-square-foot home's solar-heated hot-water system was not yet hooked up, Johnson's smile remained fixed.

She and her daughters, Stephanie, 5, and Olivia, 2, are within days of having a home of their own.

Johnson's work on the house, a requirement for Habitat for Humanity projects, was commendable, said Jason Singer, board president of Eastern Panhandle Homebuilders Association, which partnered with Habitat for the organization's fourth blitz build.

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"She was with me every step of the way," Singer said. "She truly deserves this house."

The recent heavy rainfall muddied the construction site and delayed work, so tours were not available on Monday. An open house is expected to be held in two weeks.

"Mother Nature really challenged us," said Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Al Means.

Along with energy-efficient doors and windows, sustainable flooring and paint materials, the home was built to the south to capture a maximum amount of sunlight, said David Hartley, executive director of the Homebuilders Association. He said electronic systems will monitor the use of utilities.

Singer said the project was a community achievement and lauded those who have donated their time, "especially in lean and tough times."

The home is the first of three that Means said Habitat for Humanity intends to build in part with money from the Eastern Panhandle HOME Consortium, which receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Means was able to budget up to $65,000 in federal block grant funds from the 2007-08 fiscal year for the home, which was on track to cost $105,000 to build, he said. This spring, Habitat for Humanity became the first Community Housing Development Organization (CHODO) in the Eastern Panhandle to be recognized by HUD, allowing it to net $173,176 for the three homes, Means said.

"That's been a big boon to us," Means said.

Patricia E. "Pat" McMillan, the City of Martinsburg's community development director and coordinator of the consortium, said the group of local governments was glad to help Habitat for Humanity.

"You guys are more than 'shovel ready,'" said McMillan of the home-building efforts.

The new home is the 28th built by Habitat for Humanity of the Eastern Panhandle and 601st in West Virginia, according to Judith J. "Judy" Boykin, a member of the organization's family support committee.

For Monday's dedication program, state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, and vicar of Saint John Lutheran Church in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., led those gathered in saying a blessing for the home.

In a special ceremony, Habitat for Humanity Board President Tim Pownell led the dedication of a willow tree to be planted at the home in memory of Means' wife, Janet, who lost a seven-year battle with cancer last month. She was 57.

"Even though a life has been lost, we've also gained a life," Pownell said.

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