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"Habitat" to help family's dream come true

| Friday, June 8, 2001

WEST KITTANNING - The two-year-old dream of John and Shelly Shellhammer and their family of eight will soon have a concrete foundation.

Followed by a frame, walls, a roof, windows, and doors.

In the coming months, the Kittanning borough clan will become the second inside of a year to own a house thanks to Armstrong Habitat for Humanity.

The family of Mary Madrid was provided a house in Kittanning by the organization in November of last year.

'Prayers have been answered for the whole family, this is something we've been waiting for,' said Shelly Shellhammer.

The Shellhammers' situation is similar to that of many who receive aid from Habitat, one where they weren't looking for a handout, just a hand up.

John Shellhammer works as lead HVAC installation specialist, and according to Shelly, he makes too high a salary to qualify for low-income housing and too low a salary to qualify for a bank loan.

By working with Frank and Mary Baker, Armstrong Habitat coordinators, attending monthly meetings with the group, and participating in a talk at Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Armstrong Campus in Kittanning on the importance of volunteerism to the cause, the Shellhammers have provided themselves the opportunity for home improvement in its truest sense.

'The place we're living in now is not energy efficient at all,' said Shelly Shellhammer. '(The project) is based on volunteer work, so the more people that volunteer, the quicker it will be completed.'

According to the Bakers, the Shellhammers themselves have already gone a long way toward fulfilling the 'sweat equity' aspect of their agreement with the organization, in which they themselves participate in the building of the house.

'They're going to be another great partner-group for Habitat,' said Baker.

The official groundbreaking for the house will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday at the vacant lot along Hill Avenue, said Baker.

That did not stop Terry Bowser Excavating from starting the job early.

The Kittanning-based company spent Thursday morning digging free large quantities of moist earth to create the needed space for the basement of what will become the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house.

'Terry's my neighbor, and I asked him if he'd be willing to help, and he said yes,' said Arnold Bowser, a retired carpenter and member of Habitat's Construction Task Force Committee. 'We're going to try to use the basement for living quarters, too, but that plan is tentative because the ground is kind of wet.'

Bowser said the Church of God on Woodward Avenue in Kittanning donated the property to Habitat for use in building the house.

After the initial excavation is complete, Bowser said, volunteers would be needed to perform some hand digging tasks before the laying of foundation block begins.

'We have a committee that handles putting people on the job,' said Bowser. 'If I need people, they'll get them here, I tell them the skills that I need, and they'll send them.'

Bowser said the national office of 84 Lumber will most likely provide Habitat with the shell frame of the house.

'They offered us a pretty good deal on the shell,' said Bowser.

Frank Baker suggested those interested in an invitation and directions to the ground breaking ceremony or to volunteer for construction tasks call (724) 545-4905.

'We also need volunteers for our fundraiser triathlon at Crooked Creek Park on Sept. 8,' said Baker.

Baker said he is hoping to see the passing of the symbolic Habitat for Humanity hammer from the Madrid family to the Shellhammer.

'It's a special Habitat symbol sponsored by Stanley Tool,' said Baker.

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