Arundel woman's days hauling water to end

After 27 years, she will soon own a home with indoor plumbing

November 08, 1999|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Mary McGhee has never lived in a home with indoor plumbing, and for nearly three decades, she has hauled buckets of water to her aging rental house in rural Anne Arundel County for drinking, cooking and washing.

But by week's end, the 55-year-old South County woman will be living in a fully furnished ranch-style home of her own at a nearby site in Lothian, where only a foundation stands -- all courtesy of Habitat for Humanity's Anne Arundel County chapter.

McGhee, a spirited grandmother who cleans houses for a living, also may become somewhat of a national celebrity -- because the construction of her home this week will be featured on a CBS morning show and the Internet.

"I don't mind all the attention," McGhee said. "This is something brand new."

Veteran television home repairman Bob Vila will be the host of segments all week from the site for "The Early Show with Bryant Gumbel," beginning at 7 a.m. today. And, the Internet's iShowcast, www.iSHOW.com, will track the construction's progress, as well as a similar project in Tacoma, Wash.

The majority of the work in the first block of Ark Road will be done in the first two days by about 100 volunteers, ending with a dedication ceremony Friday, said Linda Gray, executive director of the local Habitat chapter.

This is the Arundel chapter's second "blitz build," in which volunteers construct a house in a short time rather than the usual four months it takes to build a Habitat home. The first was done in Annapolis during two weeks in 1995.

Habitat for Humanity Inc. is a national nonprofit organization that helps build affordable, energy-efficient homes for people who need them. The Arundel chapter, which receives about 100 applications annually for homes, will have built five by the end of the year and plans to construct seven to 10 next year.

Application process

Gray said McGhee applied for a home about 2 1/2 years ago. To be chosen as a Habitat homeowner, she said, McGhee had to show she had a job and enough income to handle the fixed mortgage payments.

"Habitat is concerned about people living in bad conditions," Gray said.

McGhee also was required by Habitat to perform 500 "sweat equity" hours, working as a volunteer at another site, as well as at hers.

"She's done a fabulous job of getting her hours in," Gray said. "She wants to be a part of every aspect of her home."

For 27 years, McGhee has rented her home off Bayard Road, where she lives with three adults and two children in three small bedrooms. The house is old and lacks a well.

`Getting too old'

McGhee said she carries water home from work in industrial buckets and stores it in galvanized tubs.

"I'm getting old and too tired to be doing that," she said.

McGhee, family friend Florence Blake and pet rabbit Buster plan to move into the new house. Daughter Pamela Anderson and granddaughter Rayniece Anderson will join them.

Gray said McGhee stipulated that she wanted to live in the area, which delayed the project until the Ark Road land became available. The two homes will be about a 10-minute drive apart.

Her new home will be a 1,175 square foot, one-story building with four bedrooms, 1 1/2 bathrooms, kitchen, living room and porch.

House's design

The design was selected in a national contest conducted by Residential Architect magazine, a major sponsor of the project, with CBS and the APA-Engineered Wood Association. Centex Homes of Dallas will provide drywall material and labor.

After the house is built, Kmart representatives will supply furnishings, and Gale Steeves, editor of Home magazine, will offer decorating tips.

"I know it's going to be a lovely, beautiful house," said Blake, McGhee's friend.

Eager to move

McGhee said she's eager to move in. She's not sure what she'll take from her old home and what she'll leave behind. For certain, she'll take her collection of wicker baskets, which hangs in her kitchen.

"I thank the Lord for Habitat," McGhee said tearfully as she sat at her dining room table. "But, I am going to miss this kitchen."

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