Ten would-be residents lined the porch of a new duplex home yesterday in Union Bridge, participants in a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included Maryland's Episcopal bishop, bankers, and state, county and town officials for the completion of a 20-unit project for elderly, low-income people in Carroll's smallest town.
Applicants are being screened for the new Shriner Court homes, said Daniel J. McCarthy, executive director of the Episcopal Housing Corp., an independent, nonprofit agency founded in 1995 by the diocese.
One man arrived more than an hour early for the ceremony at Shriner Court, which has 10 duplexes and a small community center. Others who toured the homes said they hoped to soon be living there.
"If they'll take us," said Tom Keefer, 77, a retired heavy-equipment operator who lives in Taneytown with his wife, Dollie, 74, who worked in restaurants and at McDaniel College.
"We're originally from Union Bridge," she said, and they would like to return.
"I'm hoping," said Alice Hansborough, 65, of Taneytown. She retired in March from an assisted living facility and cares for her husband, Homer, a 77-year-old retired carpenter with lung cancer.
`I love 'em'
"We've been around here 45 years," she said, but they found the farmhouse they were renting too costly. Standing in the kitchen of one of the new homes, she said, "I love 'em, I think they'd be ideal."
Herbert Brooks just turned 87 and lost his wife in January after 63 years, he said. He is a retired construction worker and has lived for the past six years in a Westminster apartment.
"I was born and raised in Union Bridge," Brooks said. "I ran all over Union Bridge barefooted. ... I was one of the first to sign up to live here. Oh, they're nice, they're nice."
"We had to move because the people sold the house we were living in," said Tom Greene, 66, a former heavy-equipment operator, who tucked a piece of the ceremonial ribbon away "for good luck." He has lived in the area for 22 years, and his wife, Dorothy Greene, 64, a greenhouse manager at Carroll Gardens in Westminster, for about 35 years.
"Everybody knows everybody," he said. But now, "we're living in Hanover, Pa. That was the only decent place we could find."
"I love Union Bridge," Dorothy Greene said. "I want to come back here; I really do. These houses are beautiful. I could live here until I meet my maker."
The only requirements for the affordable housing are that occupants be at least 62 years old, with income of $13,000 to $24,500 for one person and up to $27,000 for a couple, said McCarthy, the agency director. The rent is $385 a month, plus utilities.
McCarthy said there were about 40 inquiries from people interested in the homes.
More applications are coming in, said Margaret P. Bessette, president of Quantum Real Estate Management LLC of Rockville, which will have an on-site manager 20 hours a week.
"We expect that we'll be full up by Dec. 1," McCarthy said.
Absent, but honored
The person thanked most often yesterday was not present: the late Thelma W.L. Shriner, who donated the 2.67 acres to the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. Shriner, known for buying and restoring historic properties in Frederick and Carroll counties, had a college degree in architectural drawing.
Across Ladiesburg Road from the new homes lies the Union Bridge Community Center, which Shriner designed and donated to the town. She died in 1994 at age 98.
Named in her honor, Shriner Court is a new kind of project for the Episcopal Housing Corp. because it is in a rural community and was built from the ground up, McCarthy said.
The agency has been a partner in several projects in Baltimore. As a result of the Union Bridge project, a similar rural senior housing development is being considered for Prince Frederick in Calvert County, McCarthy said.
"These are wonderful," said the Right Rev. Robert W. Ihloff, bishop of the archdiocese, smiling on the small front lawn as he spoke of Shriner's gift and blessed the result. "We had no particular use for the property."
Funding for the $2.4 million project was provided by the state's Partnership Rental Housing program and its community development block grant program, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta. Construction began in March and was completed ahead of schedule.
Union Bridge agreed to take ownership of the homes about a year ago - after considerable trepidation, said Mayor Bret D. Grossnickle. But, he said, "It's very much needed in this community. We knew that affordable housing for our older citizens was needed."
Carroll County Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr., the town's former mayor, knew Shriner from 40 years ago and said he lived in Union Bridge for a time on East Broadway.
Remembering when this land was a wind-swept cornfield, he said, "She always said she wanted this for low-income housing for seniors in Union Bridge."