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Habitat to be commended for 20 years

Homeownership.

To most, it's part of the American Dream. For some, it would not be possible if not for the help of Habitat for Humanity.

Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of Gwinnett Habitat for Humanity, which has helped more than 80 families realize that dream.

The initiative started as a volunteer endeavor with a goal of building a couple houses a year. It's now an organization with seven full-time staff members and a goal to build 12 homes this year - three homes have been completed so far in 2008 - in providing affordable housing to Gwinnett families and individuals.

Through donations and sponsors and the work of volunteers, Gwinnett Habitat has built 86 homes in its 20 years and will be completing its 87th house in September.

The organization is also constructing townhomes, set to be finished in December, to create the first Habitat townhome community on Pounds Drive in Tucker, which was the site of Gwinnett Habitat's anniversary festival Saturday.

A Habitat home build is usually completed in 12 consecutive Saturdays with teams of about 30 people, including volunteers, Habitat supervisors and Habitat homeowners. A crew of mostly retired individuals who have construction experience and skills works every Thursday to keep construction on schedule and to help prepare for the larger groups that work Saturdays.

Once a Habitat home is finished and a family moves in, they are responsible for a monthly mortgage, which averages between $300 to $500, and those funds are rolled back to build additional houses.

Families selected to receive a Habitat home meet strict income guidelines - earning between 25 and 60 percent of the average county income, which Beth Stubbings, Gwinnett Habitat's director of development, said for a family of four is between $25,000 and $40,000 a year. They pay a down payment and a monthly mortgage. They put in what's called "sweat equity" - which finds them working on another home in the program to give back, and they attend workshops that help them manage their money.

We thank the organization and its volunteers and staff members for their work and praise them for a job well done. And we congratulate the new homeowners.

For more information on Gwinnett Habitat for Humanity visit www.habitatgwinnett.org.