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Five churches grab tools for Habitat home

Five Presbyterian churches have picked up hammers, made lunches or donated money to help build a Habitat for Humanity home for Kelly Cox and her 11-year-old son, Shane.

The Rev. Peter Thompson of Presbyterian Church of Seven Springs and the Rev. Gary Carson of First Presbyterian Church presented the idea to the West-Pasco Presbyterian Ministers to join together in the project.

From there, plans unfolded.

"This is something we can do hands-on that will show visual results and touch the lives of a family in a concrete way," the Rev. Thompson said.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. Habitat invites people of all backgrounds, races and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need. This works through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials for Habitat to build and rehabilitate simple, decent houses.

Volunteers from the area churches and the community are volunteering their time on the Cox home in Hudson from 8 a.m. to noon Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Construction began in May and the expected move-in date is November.

Bruce Blatz from Lakeside Presbyterian Church in Tarpon Springs is the construction manager on the home. Chuck Stewart attends Lakeside and is on the board of directors for West-Pasco Habitat for Humanity.

"We were all for it," said Stewart in reference to the joint effort of the community churches. "We generally don't have churches that come forward en masse," Stewart said.

Stewart said any denomination can help and that they need more churches participating.

Muriel Caron, chairwoman of St. Mark's Presbyterian mission committee, said her church was very active in giving a donation of $8,250 toward the project.

George Brandli represents the project committee for the First Presbyterian Church. Because the congregation is made up mostly of seniors, they were unable to do physical labor or give financially. Instead, the church supplies snacks a few times a month and a full-size lunch one Saturday a month for the volunteer crews doing construction on the home.

Carson said Westminster Church donated $2,000 toward the building of the Cox home and volunteered work hours. West-Pasco Habitat for Humanity has a 650-square-foot rehabilitated house that is used for the office, which happens to be on Westminster Church's property. The church allows Habitat to hold garage sales and fundraisers there and offers some use of the church's office equipment. Carson also works with the leaders of Habitat, helping them develop community contacts and ideas.

The Presbyterian Church of Seven Springs began its part in February when the children of the church were asked to write blessings and prayers on the 2-by-4 lumber boards and Thompson was able to put up one of the walls.

The church also tied into the theme by using a curriculum from Habitat at its vacation Bible school.

Children engaged in mock construction activities, games and crafts that required team effort. They learned how Habitat has helped many families and heard Bible stories that give examples of the same meaning. Each day they learned that there are different ways for people of all ages to help others.

The children baked cookies Friday that will be taken to workers today. Ann Sylvester, director of the vacation Bible school, said they will tour the Cox construction site and help by raking or picking up trash.

Shane Cox said this was the first time going to a vacation Bible school, and he learned about God. Shane said he was "really excited" about his new home and that he would tell his friends, "Habitat is a great place."

_ Angela Hood covers religion news in Pasco County. She can be reached in Dade City at (352) 521-5757, ext. 29, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 29.

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