Ringing hammers would answer prayers of Habitat for Humanity members

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 16, 2000

Members of the Natchez chapter of Habitat for Humanity have money in the bank for a new house, a list of potential recipients and a list of volunteers ready to sign on for a new project.

But they have one problem: No land.

&uot;We haven’t given up,&uot; said Natchez Habitat President Andrew Calvit. &uot;We’re praying about it.&uot;

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Habitat for Humanity is a Christian-based organization that uses volunteers to help build houses for low-income families. The national organization, promoted most famously by former President Jimmy Carter, built its 100,001st house Friday in Georgia.

The Natchez group has built six houses so far, and members are anxious to build the seventh.

&uot;We still have a list of people waiting for houses,&uot; Calvit said. &uot;We’re exploring the possibility of going outside the city to the county.&uot;

That can pose problems, however, because Calvit said the group needs a piece of land that has access to utilities.

Another possibility would be buying the land if members cannot find a donor. But that option eats up money the organization could use to help build the house.

Calvit said Natchez’s problems are not unique in the national organization. &uot;To build a house you need three things,&uot; he said. &uot;You need property, funds and a family. Most of the time you’ve got two but not the third.&uot;

Habitat members have looked at several potential lots, but none have met the specifications they need. The property has to be at least 7,200 square feet in the city limits.

&uot;A lot of times we go to lots and they’re too small,&uot; Calvit said. &uot;We do pray that someone will have the generosity of their heart to donate some land.&uot;

Another problem, said member Ralph Jennings, is that some pieces of land would take too much money to design for.

&uot;(Higher-income builders) could built on a 45-degree angle lot, but we can’t develop on a lot like that,&uot; Jennings said. &uot;It’s got to be level enough, large enough to be economically practical enough for us to develop there.&uot;

But while the group waits to find land for the next project, they aren’t idle, Calvit said. In addition to looking for land, the group keeps tabs on families living in the six houses Habitat has already built.

&uot;We keep having board meetings,&uot; Calvit said. &uot;We want to keep things together and make sure everybody is working … until we can get a hammer ringing.&uot;

Many Habitat members bring resources and skills from their professions to the group. Calvit works at Mississippi Valley Gas, while Jennings is a retired chemist. Other members include a retired engineer and an attorney, as well as planning professionals.

And members say they receive as much from the organization as they bring to it.

&uot;I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,&uot; said Calvit, who has been president for the past five years. When the group is working on a house, Calvit tries to be there every weekend. &uot;I don’t like to ask anyone who works with me to do anything I wouldn’t do myself,&uot; he said. &uot;It gives you a good feeling.&uot;

Jennings receives so much pleasure from volunteering &uot;I sometimes feel guilty because I’m getting so much,&uot; he said with a laugh.

And while they wait and pray for a donation, Habitat members remain faithful that one will come through.

&uot;Habitat is based on faith,&uot; Calvit said. &uot;If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything.&uot;