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Hosanna seeks 2,000 helpers to build homes in a hurry

| Sunday, March 23, 2003

Typically, Hosanna Industries Inc. averages up to 2,000 volunteers a year to help construct affordable housing for needy families.

Next month, they hope to have 2,000 volunteers in a single week.

From April 14 to 18, the 13-year-old Rochester-based Christian housing ministry is seeking 2,000 volunteers to help with a Blitz Build of a six-unit, townhouse-style apartment complex in Butler.

The 5,700-square-foot building along Kaufman Drive will provide affordable transitional rental housing for displaced single mothers participating in programs offered by the Lighthouse Foundation, a Christian ministry based in Middlesex.

The complex will include four two-story and two one-story apartments, and is Hosanna's "biggest and most complex project so far," volunteer coordinator Mike Killian said.

Skilled framers are needed to volunteer April 7 to 11 and "all willing volunteers" are needed from April 14 to 18, Killian said.

"This project is wonderful," said Vern Borchert, executive director of the Lighthouse Foundation. "With the volunteer labor that Hosanna will coordinate, we can build the complex for half of what it would cost to use a commercial contractor," he said.

The Lighthouse Foundation received a $283,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that includes a three-year operating subsidiary and a $107,500 grant from Pennsylvania Homes for acquisition of the property and construction costs. The grant money originally was slated to purchase an option on an existing property, but the deal fell through.

"Hosanna came to the rescue. We could never have afforded to do it without them," Borchert said.

With materials, property and labor, Borchert estimates the project will cost about $315,000.

Prep work, such as the pouring of footers, already has begun at the site, and preliminary framing is being done at the Hosanna campus, according to Teresa Firek, mission worker.

Comparing this project to others Hosanna has done in the past, Firek explained that a typical two-story home takes about seven days to complete, with an average of 40 to 80 volunteers.

One of the group's biggest projects to date, the rebuilding of a Arkansas church burned down by arson in 1997, took nine days to complete. The timetable to build the apartment complex is much longer, Firek said.

"We hope to have it completed by June 30th," she said.

Hosanna takes volunteers ages "5 to 105" and will work with people who have physical disabilities.

"We will find meaningful work for anyone who is willing to volunteer," Firek said.

On past projects, a blind volunteer helped with masonry and a quadriplegic volunteer helped build a flooring system.

Young children enjoy helping out by carrying a large magnet around the building site and collecting nails, Firek said.

"On the other spectrum, we love to have experienced people, such as electricians and plumbers," she said.

Coordinating a large number of volunteers is simplified, Firek said, by "breaking everything down into smaller tasks."

For example, one group is in charge of siding, and another the installation of windows and doors.

By the end of the Blitz Build week, Hosanna hopes to have the exterior shell of the complex completed.

"Volunteers are really needed to get this project off the ground," Firek said. Additional Information:

How to help

What: A Blitz Build by Hosanna Industries Inc. of a six-unit apartment complex in Butler to provide affordable housing for displaced single mothers.

When: April 14 to 18.

Who: The group is seeking 2,000 volunteers to help build the apartments.

Details: Call Mike Killian at (724) 770-0262 or e-mail Mike@hosannaindustries.org .

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