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SHOWING HUMANITY Women take up tools for home-building project

By CYNTHIA M. ELLIS - The Telegraph - Click Here to see original article!

Habitat for Humanity

The Telegraph/JOHN BADMAN

ALTON — Heavy pounding infused a quiet neighborhood Monday as a group of volunteers began installing the walls to the city’s newest Habitat for Humanity house.

“Smack! Thwack! Whack!” went the clatter of nearly a dozen hammers as they echoed along Wallace Street.

The Women’s Missionary Union of Illinois started hammering away on the 1,170-square-foot house being built for Shelby Maholland.

Maholland climbed up and down a ladder, working right alongside the 17 women and other volunteers and board members, including some men, with the Piasa/Alton Area Chapter for Habitat for Humanity.

“I’m excited to be here,” the 22-year-old Maholland said.

Maholland said when she first found out that she had been selected as the homeowner she was speechless. The mother of a 4-year-old and 1-month-old said when she received the call she started screaming and jumping up and down.

“My son didn’t know what was going on,” she said.

Jim Hanlon, president of the habitat chapter, said the goal is to get Maholland into the house by Christmas. He said Maholland’s house at 1120 Wallace St. is third house that the habitat chapter has built during the past five years.

When the missionary group arrived this week the only thing that was on the lot was the concrete foundation for the house.

Nancy Whitlow of Godfrey project coordinator for the women’s group, said the women quickly got to work putting up the framed walls that had been built prior to their arrival.

Hanlon said that prisoners from Southwest Illinois Correctional Center in East St. Louis constructed the walls.

“It’s part of the prisoner training program and we are pretty pleased that they were able to assist,” Hanlon said.

Not only did they put together the walls for the house, but the coordinator for the program David Carr, and several prisoners were on site to deliver and offload them.

“I think the program is a good thing, especially when it assists organizations such as ours,” he said.

The missionary group will install the frame, side and roof of the three-bedroom structure.

Whitlow said that other volunteers will do the inside work, She said this was the eighth build for the missionary group.

“We’ve helped build two houses in Wood River, two in South Roxana and this is our third in Alton,” Whitlow said.

Whitlow said those who come quickly learn the skills the need. There are some who have never helped build a home before, but when they are done they’ve gained the skills including the use power tools, she said.

Those with the missionary group pay their own transportation and lodging expenses on every build, plus make a monetary donation toward the project. Area churches provided the group with lunch and dinner each day of the build.

“We can’t thank them enough for their help,” she said.

The missionary union is the largest Protestant missions organization worldwide with one million members; WMU is an auxiliary of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Whitlow said in 2002 the women became the first chapter (of WMU) to build in Ghana, West Africa.

“Most of the women who work on house take vacation to do so,” Whitlow said. “They really look forward to it. The weather this week has turned out great for it too.

Maholland will be approved for a zero percent loan for less than $50,000. Criteria for receiving a Habitat loan are that recipients do not qualify for conventional financing, plus they are required to complete 300 hours of sweat equity with the organization as part of the agreement.

Hanlon said volunteers and donations are always accepted and can send requests to help or bequests to the chapter to P.O. Box 3084, Alton, Ill. 62002. He said that the chapter is planning in the near future for a

Maholland, who works in the office of Saint Anthony’s Physician’s Group, planned to be on site of her new house throughout the week. She said she is so excited about being able to help out, plus the fact that she is able to buy her first house.

“It’s just really wonderful,” she said.

cellis@thetelegraph.com