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Church builds shelters for Haitians
Gainesville First United Methodist Church staff members take a look at one of the housing structures the church plans to send to Haiti. The staff team and other church teams will be constructing identical houses to send. From left are staff members Jackie Powers, Rebeccah Damon, Michele Bellue and Pam Spivey.

Homes for Haiti

When: 1-8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Gainesville First United Methodist Church, 2780 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville
More info: 770-536-2341

A Gainesville church will turn its parking lot into a giant workshop this weekend to help build homes for people in Haiti who have been displaced by the earthquake.

TEAMeffort, a local missionary group, will provide the building materials and transportation for the homes.

“It’s just striking the desperation down there,” said Doug Jones, director of TEAMeffort. “There’s just so many hundreds of thousands of people that don’t have anywhere to live in Haiti.”

In January, Haiti suffered a catastrophic earthquake that killed thousands and left many more homeless.

Each of the 8-foot-by-12-foot homes costs about $600. Groups, such as families or Sunday school classes, purchase the materials and then assemble the walls and the roof. Depending on skill level, the homes can take as little as one hour to assemble or as long as five hours.

Doug Jones said people outside of the church are welcome to purchase homes and there likely will be more building events in the near future.

Jones said he expects 22 homes will be assembled this weekend. The walls and roof will be shipped flat on a barge out of Brunswick to Haiti. In the fall, a mission team from First United Methodist will travel to Gonaives, a town north of Port-au-Prince, to erect the homes.

“They’re simple, they’re basic, but they’re a real shelter,” Jones said. “If you’re living under a tarp, this little shelter looks very exciting.

“It’s the same way you’d see people react on ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ when they move the bus. ... It’s all perspective.”

Tom Jones, pastor of congregational care and older adults for First United Methodist, said the project is a hands-on way for people to help Haitians.

“Be it too young, too old, or whatever the case may be, they’re just not able to get away to make a trip to Haiti to help those people,” Tom Jones said. “This is a way our people can do more than just contributing dollars. It’ll help those folks down there in a very specific way.”

Doug Jones said assembling the modest shelters also helps make people appreciative of what they have.

“It helps gain perspective for people that live in a place as nice as Gainesville,” Doug Jones said.

Towns near the island nation’s capitol, like Gonaives, have been hit particularly hard.

“The towns outside of Port-au-Prince have taken on a completely different complexion because they now have their normal issues and tens if not hundreds of thousands of refugees that just showed up to a place that didn’t have what was necessary to support the current population,” Doug Jones said. “Now there’s just refugees with nothing, so those areas become that much more desperate.”