Habitat for Humanity looking for volunteers

Published 12:01 am Thursday, November 29, 2007

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of stories highlighting non-profit agencies that need help or donations during the holiday season.

NATCHEZ — To Chantel Marsaw, fresh wood is one of the best smells in the world.

She and her four daughters will move into the new Habitat for Humanity house under construction on Smith Street.

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“Where we are at now, it’s an old house,” Marsaw said as she took a break from helping hammer. “My children are so excited. I brought them over here for Thanksgiving, and they didn’t want to leave.”

Marsaw said she was most excited to be a homeowner. Her family has had some pretty bad renting experiences.

Chantel Marsaw discusses her new house that she is helping build with help from Habitat for Humanity. Click here for slideshow

“In one house, we didn’t have working water,” she said. “The pipes busted on us.”

The property owner wouldn’t fix the pipes, she said.

“Someone told me to stop paying the landlord, so I did,” she said. “We came home one day and our stuff was out on the street.”

For Marsaw, the smell of wood means a brand new house. And to her daughters, ages 13, 10, 8 and 6, that’s something special.

“I heard one of them say this is the first time to stay where no one else ever lived,” Marsaw said. “She said, ‘No one ever used the bathtub, no one ever used the toilet.’”

The local Habitat chapter, started in the early 1990s, builds houses for low-income families in the Miss-Lou area.

Volunteers, board members and future residents pitch in from 8 a.m. to noon every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday to raise the walls.

The chapter is on its eleventh house, chapter president Andrew Calvit said.

The chapter can always use monetary donations, but what they really need is volunteers.

“People can help by volunteering to come out to work at the job site,” Calvit said. “They don’t have to have any experience. They don’t have to have tools. We furnish everything.”

One of the best rewards for Calvit is the homeowners’ reactions, he said.

“I get a great feeling just seeing the excitement when you first tell them they’re selected, and at the dedication ceremony, how appreciative they are,” he said.

The thought of a new house brings a grin to Marsaw’s face.

“This is such a blessing for us,” she said. “We’ve been through so much.”