Housing organization's renovation program makes a house a home

Waverly rowhouse restored by women

November 22, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

When Euris Smith moved from Trinidad three years ago, she fell in love with Baltimore, but she never dreamed of owning a home here.

Yesterday, the 59-year-old mother of six adult children fought back tears as she was handed keys to a three-bedroom rowhouse in Waverly that she helped renovate through the Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity's "All Women's Build" program.

About 60 friends, neighbors and volunteers watched as Smith's sister Lynette Thomas carried on the Chesapeake Habitat tradition of the program's last new homeowner presenting the keys to its newest homeowner.

Thomas, who moved into her home on Old York Road in August, gave the keys to Smith, and the sisters hugged on the porch of the house in 700 block of E. 30th St.

"I'm proud to be a homeowner in this community," Smith told the gathering.

Chesapeake Habitat's goal for Smith's home was to have women hammer every nail during the construction, which began Mother's Day. It was the 20th home in Waverly the group has renovated in the past four years.

"We wanted to show women have power, that most of our volunteers are women," said Jenny Hope, executive director for Chesapeake Habitat.

"All Women's Build" was a first for the local Habitat chapter and will be continued next year, Hope said.

Dale Bowen, a construction manager for Chesapeake Habitat, said several hundred volunteers -- including girls and women from ages 14 to 70 -- performed about 90 percent of the work.

Smith shared in that as part of the nonprofit housing organization's requirement for new owners to contribute 300 hours of "sweat equity." In return, she has earned a no-interest mortgage.

The remaining work on Smith's new home, Bowen said, is minor trim that is expected to be finished in time for her to move in Dec. 9.

Smith, who has been living in a nearby rental property, first saw her new home in May. It had been vacant for three or four years and was overflowing with debris.

"The floors had holes, the electric didn't work, and the plumbing was broken," said Smith, the director of laundry services for a Baltimore nursing home. "It was not fit to live in."

But yesterday, she pointed to a newly planted pear tree in the back yard beyond her patio. She also pointed to a small area where she plans to grow peppers and tomatoes next summer.

"It's so beautiful," she said.

Volunteers such as Betty Shaw, a retired federal worker, and Paula Dugdale, a former bank employee, had limited experience with tools when they began.

"Some of the women had never had a hammer in their hand, but Dale [Bowen] was a great teacher," Shaw said. "Using a sledgehammer, crowbar and power saw to get down to bare brick was hard work."

A total of $33,000 was raised to make Smith's dream a reality. Baltimore Window Factory and House with a Heart Foundation each donated $10,000. The remaining $13,000 was raised by a volunteer women's committee that planned and organized the building project, Hope said.

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