Dennis and Jo Thornton just moved to the area from Texas, and are renting a home in Severn. But they want something more permanent -- preferably close to Fort Meade, where Dennis works in Army Intelligence.
So the couple came to the Seven Oaks community in Odenton Saturday to look for a house they could have for free.
What the Thorntons found was a $200,000 home thatwill be raffled off next month, with the proceeds from the $10 tickets going to Action for the Homeless, an organization that works to give people living on the street a place to call home.
"This is a neat idea," Dennis Thornton said. "With the price of homes these days, it's amazing a builder would donate it."
"Isn't it wonderful," said Cathy Lyness, coordinator for Action for the Homeless. "It's just been the greatest joy. We are working so hard, but it's been so much fun it's almost criminal.
The idea for the raffle came from Lou Grasmick, chief executive officer of Grasmick Lumber Co. of Baltimore, and Gov. William Donald Schaefer. The Ryland Group, one of the largestarea home builders, donated the three-bedroom house. The Halle Cos.,which is building Seven Oaks, donated the land.
Organizers plan celebrity weekends until the Sept. 26 drawing. Brooks Robinson is scheduled to come Sept. 14 and organizers have invited First Lady BarbaraBush to draw the winning ticket. Bush has not yet indicated if she will attend.
But what was more interesting to people going through the house was the layout, which they said they loved. "It's about time somebody put the washer and dryer on the first floor, where you live," said Billie McGathey, who currently lives in Columbia.
The people also liked the closets, which include several of the walk-in variety -- all updated and modernized by Closettec of Owings Mills.
Betsie Russell, representing the Halle Cos., said many aspects of the home -- like landscaping and fixtures -- were upgraded by various companies for free to beautify the house.
But the furniture does not come with the prize. That will either be auctioned off or sold piece by piece at reduced rates -- with the proceeds going to charity. The carpeting, light fixtures and wallpaper are included. Baltimore Gas and Electric donated a stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer.
Not everybody who came looking Saturday was in need of a home. Larry Spann and his 18-month-old son, Brandon, live in Seven Oaks, not far from the home. "If we win this, we will move," Spann said.
Joe and Lou Greenwood practically live next door to the home, which sits on a corner lot in the 1900 block of Brigade Way. If he wins, he will own two homes on the same block. "I could sell the second one," Joe Greenwoodsaid.
Organizers say they hope to raise more than $250,000 by selling the tickets. They seem to be well on their way. O'Conor Piper & Flynn Realtors and Crown Central Petroleum Corp. have guaranteed $50,000 in ticket sales.
Also contributing to the cause are several area media outlets. WJZ-TV Channel 13, The Baltimore Sun and WMIX Radiohave donated more than $100,000 each in free advertising.
Many other companies also are helping out, from donating and building a wooden fence around the property, to picture frames hanging on outside walls to professional decorators who made sure color schemes matched.
For the Thorntons, the home may be just the thing. Coming from Texas, they said they aren't used to the high house prices in the Baltimore-Washington area. Just the same, they wanted to be sure the house was just right before spending $10 on a ticket.
"I have spent some time in Reno," Dennis Thornton said. "Maybe this is a good thing."