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Habitat readies troubled site for future homes in Hall
Jaycees clear land, donate wood to families in need
William Jones, left, and Russell Savage roll a section of a tree to the wood splitter as they work to clear a lot on West Avenue for a future Habitat for Humanity home. - photo by Tom Reed

Few addresses in Gainesville have seen more misfortune then 807 West Ave., but its luck started turning around Saturday.

In the 1990s, an errant city fire truck plowed through the living room of a small wooden- framed home that stood on the one-third-acre lot, knocking the house off its foundation. Earlier this year, a tornado swept through, downing several big oak trees on the property.

On Saturday, the now-vacant lot was literally buzzing with activity, as chain saw-wielding volunteers cleared the way for a new home for a needy family.

More than 20 members of the Gainesville Jaycees sawed through wood, chopped it with log splitters and cleared through brush with heavy equipment in preparation for a future Habitat for Humanity of Hall County building project.

Habitat builds new homes for low-income families, who pay back the nonprofit group through 300 hours of labor and a 20-year, interest-free loan. One day next year, a new house will stand where so much destruction has been wrought.

Saturday's work served another purpose, too. The Jaycees delivered the neatly split wood to five local families who rely on fireplaces and wood-burning stoves for home heating.

"It turned into a really neat thing," said Robb Owens, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Hall County. "We ended up with a lot of firewood to give to people in a very cold season. Most are getting a truckload; some are getting a couple."

A retired businessman who owns the lot has pledged to donate it to Habitat, which has yet to build a home in this low-income corridor near downtown Gainesville. Last year, the group built eight new homes; its goal is 10 new homes in 2009. With this week's dedication of a newly built house, there are now 31 Habitat for Humanity homes in Hall County.

Jaycees member Dennis Machida said his group has offered its help to Habitat in the past.

"We've got a good partnership," Machida said. "It's two good programs working together."

Machida said the Jaycees are behind Habitat's mission "because of their dedication to helping families in need by giving them a hand up, instead of a handout. It becomes a growing process for families."