A Housing Idea Not for the Birds

June 02, 1995

Since its founding in 1987, Arundel Habitat for Humanity volunteers have built 16 homes for low-income families. This year's target is seven more homes -- if you don't count the 350 birdhouses the organization hopes to build and sell to raise $10,000.

Flighty though it may seem, birdhouses are a wonderful way to raise money. The brightly painted houses seem to be a hot item in home decor. In Atlanta, where the idea originated five years ago, people literally scrambled to buy birdhouses at local malls. We hope Anne Arundel residents will, too.

Habitat for Humanity has always been a Christian organization. Yet its branches throughout the United States and in foreign countries often receive substantial support from non-Christian religious groups, which admire the enthusiasm of its volunteers, who include ex-president Jimmy Carter and his wife, former first lady Rosalynn.

In Anne Arundel County, some 3,300 residents are involved in Habitat for Humanity either through contributions or volunteer activity. Most building is done on Saturdays. Prospective Habitat homeowners toil alongside volunteers because families wanting to buy a home must put down "sweat equity" of 500 hours.

In places such as Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, Habitat projects usually involve rehabilitating old rowhouses.

In Anne Arundel County, many Habitat houses are brand new, including seven the organization is currently building in Annapolis on lots contributed by the city.

Qualifying homebuyers must be low-income families, which in Anne Arundel is defined as having an annual income between $13,000 and $26,000. The Habitat houses built so far have been scattered from Glen Burnie and Pasadena to Annapolis, Lothian and Severna Park.

Habitat supporters have thus far built about 125 of the 350 birdhouses for the fund-raiser. More are needed. The organization also could use artistically inclined individuals to paint them.

The birdhouses will be sold at a pavilion at Annapolis Harbor Oct. 11 through 15, when an auction also will be held. Some of the birdhouses will be autographed by such notables as comedian Jay Leno and Maryland's Cardinal William H. Keeler.

To volunteer or donate materials, call 267-8430.

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