Habitat for Humanity key to those in need

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 12, 2008

This is the 13th in a series of stories highlighting charitable giving and the agencies in need in the Miss-Lou.

NATCHEZ — The blisters, smashed fingers and splinters are all worth it when Habitat for Humanity representatives can hand over house keys to a worthy family.

Habitat for Humanity Treasurer Duncan McFarlane said the group usually works about nine months on a house before it is ready to be lived in.

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The work during that period is done entirely by volunteers. Without a group of willing and hardworking volunteers, the mission of Habitat for Humanity would never be realized.

Habitat for Humanity builds houses for low-income families in the Miss-Lou. The local chapter was started in the early 1990s and has currently complete two-thirds of its 12th house.

To finish that last portion of the current house and fulfill home ownership dreams for more needy families, McFarlane said two main things are needed.

“One is money, like every other non-profit,” he said. “But the other is volunteers. We are building these houses strictly on volunteer labor.”

McFarlane said volunteers are not required to have experience because there is always work for everyone.

“We just need people to come out to the house and work,” he said. “We can use help painting the inside of the house, cleaning the floors and washing windows.”

But there wouldn’t be walls to paint or floors to clean or windows to wash if there wasn’t money to buy the supplies.

McFarlane said the money donated to the local Habitat for Humanity stays in the Miss-Lou.

“All of the money donated goes directly to building the house,” he said. “We are completely run by volunteers. We don’t have any administration fees and we don’t have any board fees.

“We get all the labor for free by volunteers, but we have to go out and buy the boards and the roofing materials.”

With the money donated to Habitat for Humanity, workers are able to make an investment in the future of one family, and McFarlane said that is the payoff for them.

“The biggest joy is to watch them get the deed and the keys and start building something for their children to live in,” he said. “We hope that they leave the house to their children or grandchildren.”

And before they build a house, the group makes sure they are helping a family that is truly in need. McFarlane said after applications are turned in Habitat for Humanity representatives go to each house to talk to the candidates to determine how badly a family needs the home.

“We go in to the existing house and observe those conditions and then we say, ‘Who needs this the most,’” he said. “So we know how badly our assistance is needed.”

McFarlane said the situation is a win-win for everyone involved.

“In most cases, the house payments on these houses are less than what they were paying in rent, and because they are better insulated, their utilities go down as well,” McFarlane said. “And Habitat gets to fulfill its mission.”