An early holiday gift for 2 families

The keys to Habitat for Humanity homes are handed over

December 23, 2007|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,Sun reporter

Clyde Nelson beamed as he held the keys to his new home.

He is one of two future homeowners who have worked the past five months with volunteers and construction crews to gut and remodel the two East Baltimore homes they plan to move into in February.

Yesterday afternoon, a crowd of about 60 people gathered outside the North Washington Street homes to celebrate their completion with Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity, the local organization that coordinated the program, and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, the homes' sponsors.

"I've been waiting for this all my life," said Rochelle Randolph, the other soon-to-be homeowner. "I shed some tears. I've never been happier in my life."

Parishioners from Amazing Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in East Baltimore sang Christmas carols in front of the homes as neighbors, volunteers and others gathered for the dedication and blessing of the homes.

"It's the time of year for renewal and hope, and I think the work here in East Baltimore reinforces that," said Jack Shannon, chief executive officer of East Baltimore Development Inc., the nonprofit organization leading the $800 million revitalization of an 80-acre portion of East Baltimore.

Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity, a local affiliate of the nonprofit housing organization Habit for Humanity International, has rehabilitated more than 120 houses in Baltimore, according to the organization.

East Baltimore Development Inc. sold the North Washington Street houses to Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity for $1 plus settlement costs, and the homeowners will repay the interest-free mortgage over 30 years, said Michael Mitchell, executive director of Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity.

"We understand that you can't affect a neighborhood unless you do many different houses on many different blocks," Mitchell said. "It's also a legacy. Every dollar we raise to go into a house will be around for 30 years."

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a nonprofit that supports outreach programs, also sponsored two homes last year in Pigtown and plans to sponsor at least one more next year, said the Rev. K. Robert Schmitt, specialist for the West Baltimore chapter.

"We're overjoyed that we're part of this process," Schmitt said.

The families were required to invest 300 hours of "sweat equity" in the homes. Nelson, who has lived in Pigtown most of his life, said his two teenage sons attended meetings and dedications with him to show their support.

"It was just an experience," Nelson said of the past five months he spent working on the house.

Randolph and her fiance, Samuel Hackley, were relocated from their East Baltimore home because of redevelopment. Randolph said that's when she found out about the Habitat for Humanity program.

Randolph, a lifelong Baltimore resident, said she is overjoyed that she has turned her life around and can provide a home for her grandchildren, ages 17, 15 and 12. She said this is her first time owning a home.

"I know my grandchildren love it," Randolph said as she sat on the unfinished stairs of her new house. "It even smells brand-new. They already have their rooms picked out."

Laon Lovelace, also a homeowner who went through Chesapeake Habit for Humanity, moved into her house on North Washington Street in September. She joined the celebration yesterday to welcome her new neighbors.

"Really, everyone deserves to be a homeowner," Lovelace said. "It is a blessing, and I welcome them."

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