100 volunteers help build Genesis Village

Published 1:59 pm Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A major effort by various organizations helped to spur construction of three homes that need to be finished before an impending grant deadline.

Returning organizations and first timers teamed up Saturday to help build three new Habitat for Humanity homes on South Haugh Avenue. Between all the volunteering organizations, either to help build, or to just cook lunch, about 100 volunteers showed up, said Pearl River County Habitat for Humanity board member Donna Fischer.

Villanova University students came down for their fourth trip to help with the construction of three Habitat for Humanity houses. The 42 Pennsylvania residents brought with them monetary donations for Habitat and for two local churches as well, Fischer said. Three of the students who graduated from the university last year paid their own way to come down and help out again.

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Fundraisers conducted by the students raised about $3,000 to donate to the local Habitat effort.

“Not only did they pay to come over here to work, they brought money — again,” Fischer said.

When the group came down In February, its members brought $75,000 with them to help finish two houses that were recently completed.

This trip Villanova students also brought a $500 donation for First United Methodist Church to use to buy new tables and $1,000 to donate to Resurrection Life Worship Center which housed them the last three times they came down to help during Rebuilding Pearl River County Together, Fischer said.

A number of volunteers who work at Stennis Space Center also donated their Saturday to help build the houses. Those 40 volunteers came from Computer Sciences Corporation and Manufacturing Technical Solutions. Both companies have facilities at Stennis Space Center, said MTS employee Jennifer Stevenson.

Stevenson said she got the idea from a company picnic MTS holds in Huntsville, Ala. That picnic combines volunteer work with the picnic each year. She passed on the idea to participate with Habitat in Pearl River County and her boss approved the idea. Stevenson said she hopes the volunteer effort can become an annual occurrence for the companies.

Members of Knights of Columbus also donated their time to cook lunch for the workers, Fischer said.

To keep the children occupied in the kids’ area, Home Depot donated wooden fire trucks that could be constructed while adults built the homes. The fire trucks were such a hit that Fischer said she had to go out and buy 20 more hammers so the kids could continue building the fire trucks with hammers Habitat already owned.

All three houses need to be completed by Nov. 15, in order for the homeowners to get $25,000 in grant money from the HOME grant program under the Mississippi Development Authority. The extension applied for by the county was not approved, so the houses need to be finished and all closing documents completed by that date. Approval of the grant monies will save each homeowner about $70 a month during their 30-year mortgage payment period, Fischer said.

“So it means a big deal as far as affordability to the homeowner,” Fischer said.

Fischer said Habitat for Humanity Secretary Heddy Cibula headed the charge to get those grants for the Habitat Homes.

Stevenson said it’s not hard to donate time and the benefits of giving up one Saturday to help others are substantial.

“I think more people need to do it,” Stevenson said.

Habitat for Humanity is always looking for volunteers willing to donate time or money. Interested parties can get further information by calling 601-799-4636.