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Volunteers finish new home in 'Blitz Build'

| Saturday, Aug. 25, 2001

About 450 people gathered Friday on Walnut Street in Imperial to dedicate and turn over the keys of a brand new home to its owners - Dale, Mahala and Chuck Bouchon.

In just a week, the sweat, money and prayers of volunteers had replaced the Bouchons' old home, a house that was almost as old as Findlay Township itself. The Hosanna/West Allegheny Homebuilding Project coordinated the volunteers who built the new three-bedroom home.

Without an ounce of sorrow, the three Bouchon siblings kissed their 150-year-old house goodbye last month when a private contractor volunteered to bulldoze the house.

Five generations of Bouchons were raised in that Walnut Street house, but the house had fallen into disrepair.

'I won't miss it,' Dale Bouchon, 44, said while looking at pictures that volunteers had taken of the house.

'Yeah, I remember those stairs - they were a pain in the neck,' Chuck Bouchon said.

John Jennette, the Bouchons' neighbor, said the old house had a leaking roof, rotting wooden floors, drafty windows and an antiquated electrical system. The siding also needed to be replaced.

'The Lord left this house up long enough for us to take it down,' Dale Bouchon said. The Bouchons are mentally challenged and took ownership of the old house when their parents died in the 1980s.

The house was well beyond the minor mending that the West Allegheny Ministerial Association at first intended. The association includes dozens of churches in North Fayette and Findlay townships and Oakdale.

As the members started to tally the costs, they came up with an estimated cost of $18,000 to begin to fix the house.

They decided to try a different avenue. Jennette, a member of the association, learned that Hosanna Industries was interested in helping the family. Based in Rochester, Beaver County, Hosanna is a nonprofit Christian ministry that builds and repairs houses for needy families.

A deal was sealed last November - Hosanna and a team of volunteers would build the one-story home.

The cost would be just $28,000 for construction materials and overhead.

'Hosanna asked for nothing. These people have nothing,' Jennette said of the Bouchon family, who have been living at a local hotel owned by one of the volunteers.

The actual construction of the home - called a 'Blitz Build' - began Monday and ended yesterday.

'This is something exciting,' Dale Bouchon said, shaking his head. 'I look forward to moving in. I thank God for all these people out here that pitched in for this. Every day I count my blessings. My prayers have been answered.'

Erin Cain, a sophomore at West Allegheny High School, is a good example of the spirit of volunteerism.

Cain sprained her back Tuesday when she was moving cinder blocks down a hill in a 20-person assembly line. The blocks were used to build a retaining wall surrounding the back side of the house.

Cain still was on site the next day, smiling - but walking as if she had been riding a wild horse - with a blue ice pack secured to her back.

'I still wanted to support. This is a great cause, to help out a needy family like this. It was definitely worth it,' she said.

Ginny Mitchell, a local commercial artist, hasn't picked up one cinder block but instead has volunteered to decorate some of the walls in the new home.

She stopped by the house amid all the commotion this week to get an idea of the layout. Mitchell said she will do some stencil work, sponge painting and block stamping over the crisp white walls.

And following Dale Bouchon's request, Mitchell will paint the phrase 'God bless our home' on top of the entryway to the kitchen.

'There's so much we can do to the home - wherever I am led and whatever they want, that's what I'll do,' Mitchell said. 'I was just so impressed to do it. This is something the Lord laid upon my heart.'

Pat Jennette, co-coordinator of the project with her husband John, said she hopes the ministerial association can bless another family with another house.

'I don't want this to be just one house for one family. There's a need and an interest. I want us to try this again,' she said, adding there are plans to create a permanent building ministry within the association.

Donations for the project came from a variety of sources, including church pledges and local civic and social organizations.

One little girl, Pat Jennette said, handed her a bag of nickels, dimes and quarters totaling $11 that she received on her birthday.

'So many caring people - that's the beauty of it,' she said.

Treshea N. Wade can be reached at twade@tribweb.com or (412) 306-4531.

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