ELDERSBURG - For three years, Mary Harman has tried to get someone to help her fix up her house on Walnut Avenue.
Six men from Carroll County Habitat for Humanity showed up Saturday to start work on the small, 60-year-old bungalow whose white asbestos shingles are cracked with age and blackened from the oil used in heating.
"Our first job is to put up new siding," said Will Koenig, Habitat's vice president. "But there's no insulation under the shingles, so we're getting estimates on blowing in loose insulation."
Habitat plans to scrape and repaint the outside of the windows, dig a ditch to divert storm water away from the house, and repair the porch, steps and sidewalk.
The group also had considered putting on a new roof, but after talking it over with Harman Saturday, all agreed that insulation in the walls was needed more.
Harman, 74 and widowed for 12 years, lives on Social Security. She can't afford to hire a contractor to do all the repairs her house needs.
"I'm paying for the supplies, and they're doing all the work for free," Harman explained. "Then I have five years to pay them back, interest-free."
With help from businesses that are giving time and materials either free or at cost, the project is expected to cost Harman only $1,800.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit Christian housing ministry that helps low-income residents, the elderly and others in need of adequate housing. Former President Jimmy Carter has been an active participant in Habitat for Humanity programs nationwide.
The Carroll County group was started a year ago by Howard and Marie Jacobs of Woodbine, who were active in the Baltimore County Habitat for Humanity.
"My husband had a heart attack and can't do any manual labor," Marie said. "But he felt if we could get a Habitat started here, he could do some directing."
Howard is the group's president and Marie the treasurer. Linda Gainor is secretary.
Newspaper advertisements drew enough response to set up monthly meetings at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Westminster.
"We have 12 to 15 people at the monthly meetings, then another 10 to 15 who have expressed interest in the group," Koenig said.
The group incorporated and began conducting fund-raisers to earn money for a project. Additional help came from area businesses and the County Board of Women Realtors, which conducted a fashion show for Habitat, he added.
Habitat works closely with the Departments of Aging and Social Services.
"We have a search committee to find projects, and then we did some prospecting with local congregations to find people who needed assistance," Koenig said.
Habitat was linked up with Harman through the Department of Aging, where Harman is in the Green Thumb Program at the South Carroll Senior Center, working as an office helper.
Koenig estimated that it will take four or five Saturdays to repair Harman's house. After being rained out Nov. 10, workers are a week behind but hope the weather holds long enough to complete the job before severe weather sets in.
This project is the only one in Habitat's plans for now, Koenig said.
"We'll do one project at a time until we get some loan payments coming in to fund other projects," he said.
The group needs money and workers for projects next year. Members are selling T-shirts bearing the Habitat logo to raise money.
Habitat meets at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at St. Paul's United Church of Christ, at Green and Bond streets.
For information on Carroll County Habitat for Humanity, call the Jacobs at 549-2838 or Will Koenig at 848-4701.