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Hagerstown family celebrates new Habitat home

November 22, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- There were some emotional moments during Sunday's dedication of a Habitat for Humanity house on Lanvale Street.

One of them came when Charles Morgan remembered one of the women who helped build the house where his family will live. Standing in a room in the house, which was packed with guests, Morgan recalled the woman, who lost a battle with cancer.

Morgan told those who attended a dedication ceremony at the house Sunday about a butterfly bush that was planted in the backyard as a tribute to her. Wiping his eyes as he spoke, he told the crowd that he could envision the woman "smiling down from heaven."

"It pulled at my heart strings," Morgan said after the ceremony.

About 100 people crowded into the new house -- built by Habitat for Humanity Women Build -- to celebrate the Morgan family's home.

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The family, which has been staying in a Community Action Council apartment, was selected for the Habitat for Humanity program after it was profiled in September in The Herald-Mail's series on homelessness.

The mother, Tracey Morgan, worked for the Department of Social Services, but was laid off in April 2008, when her position was eliminated. She continued to look for other work, submitting more than 100 applications and sometimes driving as far as Montgomery County, Md., and Washington, D.C., for interviews.

Tracey Morgan lost her job shortly after the family started renting a duplex. Charles Morgan continued to work, but their electric bills were more than expected last winter. After last Christmas, Charles Morgan's employer cut his hours. With only his 20-hour-a-week paycheck to support them, the family, which includes three teenage children, was evicted.

Since then, Tracey Morgan found an $8-an-hour housekeeping job and Charles Morgan is working 50 to 60 hours a week.

During Sunday's ceremony, songs were sung, a pastor blessed rooms in the house and all eyes were on the Morgan family.

As Tracey Morgan waved the key to the new house in the air, cameras clicked.

"We know through this we can help other people, too," Tracey Morgan said in an emotional statement.

Families who buy Habitat for Humanity homes must earn 500 hours of "sweat equity" before settlement.

The Morgan family is still putting in sweat equity hours, some of which involve working at building sites while others are earned doing other types of work for Habitat for Humanity.

"I can't wait to get started on my sweat equity," a thankful Charles Morgan told the crowd.

Sherry Brown Cooper, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, reflected on the work that went into the house.

"This is just," Cooper said pausing, patting her hand on her chest, "this is what makes it all worth it."

Darlyn Vestal, who will help the Morgans make the transition into their new home, said the family is "very deserving."

The house was stocked with food from Food Resources and at least one holiday turkey was left there.

Shane Wilt, pastor of West End Baptist Chapel, whose church sold the land for the house, said members of the church will occasionally check in with the Morgan family to offer assistance.

Another Habitat for Humanity house was dedicated at 1024 Lanvale Street in December 2008.

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