Craig and Jeanne Martin are the ideal volunteers for Habitat for Humanity -- they know what it's like to need a house they can't afford.
Three years ago, the Martins and their six children were about to be put on the street when they bought the first house built by Anne Arundel County's Habitat group.
This week, the county's Habitat chapter celebrates five years' ofexistence, and the Martins celebrate owning their own home.
When the Martins, both 32, heard about Habitat, Martin had just been laid off from his job of seven years, and the couple's landlord had suddenly decided he wanted to move back into his house.
By the time the couple heard about the non-denominational Christian housing ministry,they were desperate.
They applied for one of the homes Habitat was building in Glen Burnie and were selected on the basis of need, character, family size, ties to the community and ability to make mortgage payments.
Today, at home in their four-bedroom, $60,000 house with a view of Marley Creek, the Martins can't express their gratitudeenough.
They became regular volunteers with Habitat and are teaching their six daughters to follow suit.
Craig Martin, a driver forthe Coca-Cola Co., spends many Saturdays putting up frames and putting on roofs for Habitat houses. His wife serves on the county group'sFamily Selection Committee, evaluating applicants for the homes.
"We hope that as our kids grow up they'll see how we participate and do the same," he says. "We're raising a new generation of volunteers."
The Martins are just one family helped by the county chapter since its inception. Arundel Habitat, which is honoring volunteers at ananniversary dinner tonight, has built six homes, as well as renovating the Annapolis Homeless Shelter.
"We've grown from a handful of volunteers to a mailing list of about 900," says Leland Wilson, the county group's director.
Says Jeanne Martin, "At first we had the same 10 people volunteering every week. Now with a large pool of volunteers you don't work every weekend."
"It's a whole different atmosphere from a regular job," she adds.
The county Habitat group is honoring past and current volunteers at the dinner at St. Martin's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Annapolis.
The group wants to thank everyone who has contributed to the projects -- churches, individuals, businesses and civic organizations.
But while the help has poured in, the land has not, Wilson says. Donations of money are especially needed now because of the high cost of land in Anne Arundel County.
Arundel Habitat had hoped to build five more houses in 1992 but a delay in finding building sites has frustrated that goal, he said.
Habitat is now seeking to help people who have property but can't afford to build, or have a house but can't afford to fix it up, Jeanne Martin says.
Says her husband: "Owning your own home for a one-income family is almost impossible. And you'd be surprised how many people in this county do not have electricity or water."
Mildred and Rodell White of Severna Park, for example, lived in a substandard home which had no plumbing. Habitat for Humanity replaced the house with one donated by the Maryland Aviation Administration's noise-abatement project.
Families who buy a Habitat home must have a yearly incomeof between $12,000 and $19,000 and must put in 500 hours of "sweat equity" helping build their house or other Habitat houses.
The family pays no interest, and the house is sold for exactly how much it costs Habitat to build it.
Says Craig Martin, "We would never have been able to earn a home with our large family. We'd still be renting.
"Now, we are able to help other families in the same shoes we were in."