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Volunteers construct houses for Haiti
Don Wagner nails together a wall that will be part of a prefabricated home for Haiti being constructed by volunteers Friday afternoon at the Gainesville First United Methodist Church parking lot.

Although there was no relief from the heat in sight for volunteers gathered at a Gainesville church on Friday, they worked tirelessly with a goal of providing comfort to people hundreds of miles away in Haiti.

In January, a devastating earthquake struck the country.

Not only were thousands killed, even more were left homeless.

After this weekend, volunteers at Gainesville First United Methodist Church on Thompson Bridge Road hope to provide shelter for at least a couple dozen of those families.

"Not everyone can go overseas on a mission trip," said Doug Jones, director of TEAMeffort, a local missionary group helping to organize the project. "This is a way for people to help others internationally, right here from the church parking lot."

Over the course of this weekend, volunteers will construct the walls and roofs of the homes. The pieces will be shipped to Haiti, and this fall, a missionary team from the church will travel there and assemble them.

"I've been involved with several overseas mission trips over the years. Personally, I think it does us as much good as the people we're helping," said Benny Hawkins, church member and project organizer. "You think you have a problem, and then you go to these places and see their living conditions and the kids with (distended) bellies and you realize that you don't have any problems."

Building the structures doesn't require any expertise, just a spirit of willingness.

"Most of us are novices," said Wendy Cordova, volunteer and one of the church's pastors. "We just wanted to do what we could to help."

Each of the prefabricated homes cost about $600. While the 8-foot-by-12-foot homes may be considered tiny by American standards, for the Haitian recipients, the structures likely are palatial compared to their current living quarters.

"When you look at the tarps and cardboard boxes where some people are living now, this would be like the Taj Mahal," Hawkins said.

Fellow builder and organizer Butch Lowranch echoed those sentiments.

"These (houses) look more like something we'd park a lawn mower in," said Lowranch, of TEAMeffort. "But once we have these all assembled in Haiti, it'll be like that moment when they move the bus on ‘Extreme Home Makeover.'"


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