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Special effort turns house into home

Fredericka Wright looks out her back door and points to where the picnic table will be some day. She points out the places where she wants to plant more flowers and tries to commit her husband, Calvin, to making good on his offer to build a brick barbecue. "I like decorating, and I'm going to fix it up really beautiful," Mrs. Wright said during a tour of her new home.

Three years ago, owning a home was just a dream. But with the help of Pinellas Habitat for Humanity, the young couple was able to buy a home.

"It wasn't even the lottery, either," Calvin Wright muses when he talks about his good fortune.

"If it wasn't for Habitat, we would have been paying rent for years and years and years," Mrs. Wright said. "It's a blessing. It really is."

The Wrights are like a lot of other young couples. He works as a truck driver and is a part-time minister. She goes to school full time and takes care of their three children, Bory, 5, Kam, 8, and Jaboris, 12.

But when they started looking around for financing to buy a home, like many other families, they were turned down because they could not come up with a down payment.

"Our rent was pretty high," Mrs. Wright said. That prevented them from saving a down payment. "It was a no-win situation."

Mrs. Wright learned of the Habitat program from one of her children's teachers and applied, she said.

The couple's down payment on the house was $500 cash, plus 500 hours of work on the house. In exchange, Habitat supplied a $37,500 interest-free loan for the $38,000 home, said Thomas Webster, executive director of the program.

"We had to get out here and paint and build trusses and all kinds of stuff," she said. "That's why it means so much."

The three-bedroom house is the first built in Clearwater by Habitat, which had concentrated much of its energies in St. Petersburg, Webster said. Two other houses will be built next to the Wrights' home on N Missouri, he said.

The group expects to complete its 16th home in Pinellas County by the end of the year, Webster said.

The program is targeted to help working poor families living in substandard or overcrowded conditions, Webster said. Usually, the families are one step away from being homeless.

"I really see it as a preventive thing," Webster said. "One less paycheck or a layoff may be all it takes."

The house is a one-story gray frame with teal trim. A large camphor tree stands in the front yard, which is enclosed by a chain-link fence.

Inside, Mrs. Wright has decorated the living room in shades of blue. Her favorite room is the kitchen, for which she chose rose-colored Formica cabinets and decorated with various straw baskets.

Though the house looks and feels comfortable, the family still has more to do, as they would like to put pictures on the walls and save for central heating, they said.

"It's home now," Mrs. Wright said. "But you just want to add your special touches to make it special."

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