Charity event builds on theme of love

Fund-raiser: Harford Habitat for Humanity's Valentine Dinner Dance raises money for more homes.

February 13, 2005|By Matt Kasper | Matt Kasper,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Building love was no metaphor for the 120 people attending the Harford Habitat for Humanity Valentine Dinner Dance at the Maryland Golf & Country Club in Bel Air on Friday night.

The $125-per-person event, titled "Love Is ... Building Houses, Changing Lives," yielded about $22,000 last year, said the chairman of the fund-raising committee, Gary Barnhoff, who said the money went toward the construction of an Edgewood home.

With five houses under construction this year - two more than last year - Barnhoff said he hopes that after all the dancing, wining and dining, and bidding in the silent auction is over, his organization will at least match last year's total.

Barnhoff said Habitat for Humanity needs the money to maintain current projects and purchase more land to build houses on.

"Since [the country club] is a nice place in the Harford community, it attracts a lot of folks. [People] are very supportive of our work," said Michael Myers, who presided over Harford Habitat for Humanity for 10 years before stepping down this year. Myers said he was happy to see the dinner dance being sponsored by Harford County businesses.

"These are great people," said WMAR Channel 2 News morning anchor Jamie Costello, who admitted to napping in the afternoon in order to be fresh for his role as master of ceremonies. "They help a lot."

The proof was in attendance.

Board member James Wood said his involvement with Habitat for Humanity began after he and his wife, Joyce, participated in the construction of their now 14-month-old home in Edgewood. The new house gave the Woods the chance to move with their three children from a crowded trailer in White Hall.

"It's really nice to see the steps people take toward building a nice, respectable house of their own," Wood said.

Kelly Keiser, 25, is another Habitat for Humanity beneficiary. She said that her experiences participating in the building of her Aberdeen home, which is scheduled to open this spring, made her supportive of Habitat for Humanity.

After the three-course dinner, Joann Blewet, Harford Habitat for Humanity's executive director, announced that she was so inspired by the enthusiastic words of Keiser's 9-year-old daughter, who said she wanted "butterflies in her bedroom," that she decided to attach a paper butterfly ornament to the tops of the dessert boxes. Inside the dessert boxes were chocolate candies shaped like houses.

The passion for building reigned supreme. The band, the Bob Kaufman quartet, cooled its instruments as Costello pulled people from the crowd to participate in a wood-sawing contest: a race to see who could cut two-by-fours the fastest using a hand-held saw.

"I'm going to be sore in the morning," said the winner, Habitat for Humanity President Bruce Miller, who collapsed on the floor in mock fatigue, saying, "I'm an office guy."

The evening's silent auction included everything from a heart-shaped necklace to an eight-piece tool set.

Patti Von Paris admitted that she had her eye on the jewelry but thought the "Overnight Get Away" at an Emmitsburg inn, for which the bidding started at $50, probably made for a "more romantic" Valentine's Day present.

The best item at the auction, she said, was the gourmet catering package offering four gourmet dinners for six friends, which sold for $800.

Von Paris said she and her husband were encouraged to attend the fund-raiser by a friend who volunteers for Habitat for Humanity.

Among the auction winners, Mark Wild said he was happy to get the "Southern Living at Home" basket - filled with bath accessories and a $100 savings bond - for $80.

Wild said he also won a gold bracelet, originally offered at $125, though he could not remember how much he paid for it.

"It's part of the gift," Wild said, smiling and standing next to his wife.

Havre de Grace photographer Leo Heppner took time from an evening of picture-taking to remove the plastic from a framed photograph he donated - an effort to boost bidding.

"These are very busy people," said psychic Corinne Tippit, who said she was receiving strong vibes from the people stopping by her stand to have their palms read. "They have so much to do, but they want to do more."

As the dance floor cleared and James and Joyce Wood were the only ones left to spin and shake to the B-52's "Love Shack," James Wood had the last word: "We don't get out that often - we enjoy ourselves when we can."

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