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Building hope: Habitat for Humanity constructs 100th home

TUCKER - Milestones for many usually mean reaching a certain birthday or anniversary.

For the Gwinnett chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit group that builds homes for families that otherwise couldn't get one, the milestone they're in the midst of reaching is the construction of the group's 100th home in Gwinnett County.

The group built its first house in Gwinnett in 1989.

"It's an amazing thing to watch," said the Gwinnett group's Director Charles Craig. "Habitat is like the old-fashioned 'barn raising' of the past - neighbors helping neighbors."

In this case, the family benefiting from Habitat's kindness and generosity is a family of six - the Haidari's - who fled war-ravaged Afghanistan as refugees. Prior to coming to the United States on Sept. 6, 2005, Eshaq and his wife Sahila lived in Belarus for five years with their three children. They've since added another youngster to the clan - Ramesh.

Eshaq Haidari said his family is thrilled to be leaving their two bedroom, Decatur apartment for Gwinnett, where he said his children will get a better education and where it will be safer for them to play outside. In broken English (he knew no English upon arriving in the U.S.), he had nothing but excitement in his voice in describing the people he's worked with at Habitat in constructing his home. All Habitat recipients add "sweat equity" into building their home and the homes of others. The family will then pay the mortgage once they move in.

"These people are very good," Haidari said. "They are like family. They answer all my questions. ... They're good."

And aside from the electricians and plumbers, they're mainly all volunteers. Since 1989, more than 3,000 volunteers have participated in building homes in Gwinnett alone.

John Emery, a crew leader for Habitat, said the group's Thursday volunteers are the lifeline of the organization.

"These same faces show up every Thursday," Emery said. "Without these guys, this organization would fall apart."

Craig said it also would fall apart without sponsors, who make the building possible through donations and through largely supplying the Saturday volunteers. He said in a down economy, that's been a challenge. But he paid tribute to the sponsors who are making Gwinnett house No. 100 possible.

They include Suwanee Parish, Sugarloaf, Cannon, McKendree and Mountain Park's United Methodist Churches, Norcross Presbyterian Church, St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, CITI, Whirlpool and Gwinnett County Community Development.

Craig said what many people also probably don't realize is that for each home in Gwinnett, 1.5 homes get built in another part of the world by Habitat. He said the Gwinnett chapter's work has included homes built in Honduras, the Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Egypt, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Mexico.

"Our footprint is worldwide," he said.