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CLINE: Co-op's mortgage story a happy one

File photo
 Mary Roberts is the director of Hands of Christ Co-op in Duluth. Hands of Christ had a celebration this past Sunday to burn the mortgage after paying it off. 

File photo Mary Roberts is the director of Hands of Christ Co-op in Duluth. Hands of Christ had a celebration this past Sunday to burn the mortgage after paying it off. 

DULUTH

It was a celebration on many levels. Of the giving spirit. Of volunteerism. Of hope.

At a time when all we hear about is how awful the housing market is, Hands of Christ Cooperative Ministry was able to do on Sunday what many homeowners would like to mimic — burn the mortgage.

This is a happy story that sprang from foreclosure. Of a ministry that was able to get the space it, and by extension the community, needed. It is the story of how the group paid off the note in four years, leading to Sunday’s celebration.

“I can’t begin to tell you the emotions that were flowing,” Hands of Christ director Mary Roberts said. “Especially the day I carried that last check to the bank.

“We’re debt free. We’re debt free. We’re debt free. That’s all I could think. Now all the money we were using to pay the note can go back to the people we want to help.”

It’s not lost on Roberts that Thanksgiving is a week away. The mortgage burning celebration was timed to remind people of the blessings the co-operative ministry has received as well as given. It is a time to both recognize and inspire the volunteers who make Hands of Christ work.

“All the credit goes to the community,” Roberts said. “We have a motto: ‘A community that cares is a community that shares.’

“We’re just thankful for God and the wonderful people in this community. It’s great to see how people’s hearts are warmed by seeing that there is a place where people can go for help in our community.”

Roberts said the co-op moved into its new building, located at 3395 Fox St. in Duluth, on Jan. 17, 2007. Hands of Christ bought the foreclosed property, located behind an apartment complex, for $375,000 with a down payment of $75,000.

It was a huge upgrade for Roberts and the co-op, going from a building of about 1,000 square feet to one that has 9,000 square feet of space. At its previous spot, volunteers had to sort the food on the grass out back, and the conditions inside were often too warm or too cold. So one of the main goals of the move was to improve the infastructure to help the people giving help.

“Our first goal was to have adequate work space for our volunteers,” Roberts said. “We used to have to send people home at noon because it got so hot. But now we have heat and air conditioning.”

Roberts hopes to put the extra space located in the basement to use soon. Paying off the mortgage allows her to concentrate on the implementation of a thrift store in the basement, with those proceeds earmarked for the co-op and therefore the community.

As the co-op continues to move forward the number of people in need of help is still high. But at a time when a lot of the news we hear is bad, Hands of Christ is creating good news. And that’s worthy of a celebration, indeed.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/toddcline.