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Bob Maxey
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The house at 4842 Maryland, Detroit, and its neighbor are supported by the Habitat Grosse Pointe Partners. photo by Ann L. Fouty.

September 12, 2013
There was a lot of activity on Maryland Street in Detroit in mid-August.

Grosse Pointe volunteers swarmed over two houses during a Habitat for Humanity Detroit building blitz. The men and women were raising two houses from merely a foundation to a completed shell of a four-bedroom house.

The $80,000 cost of one 1,100 square foot house was donated by the Grosse Pointe Memorial Church and its neighboring house was sponsored by the Habitat Grosse Pointe Partners. The partners include Christ Church Grosse Pointe, First Christian Reformed Church, Grosse Pointe Memorial Presbyterian Church, Grosse Pointe Congregational Church, Grosse Pointe United Methodist Church, Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church, Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church, St. James Lutheran Church, St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church, St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church, St. Michael's Episcopal Church, St. Ambrose Catholic Church, St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic Church, First English Lutheran Church and Grace United Church of Christ. They provided both volunteers and funding.

Providing physical labor to build a house is putting faith into action, said the Rev. Peter Henry of Memorial Church. "Memorial Church has a long tradition of building."

"You don't have to swing a hammer" to volunteer, said Chick Van Dusen, a member of Memorial Church. There are more than 40 volunteer spots from signing in volunteers to hospitality and carrying supplies, he said.

"You can sign up for one day or many days," Van Dusen said.

Bob Gibson of Rochester, N.Y., a 12-year volunteer returns to his native state to help with the building blitz.

"I take a vacation to do this," he said. Having been raised on Detroit's east side, Gibson, as a team leader, likes to return to Michigan in the summer for a week's vacation and participates in a building blitz. He takes another vacation week from his job at Price Waterhouse Cooper in the winter to help with a building blitz in Miami.

"I was raised on the east side of Detroit. You can't take the Detroit out of me. I read the News and Free Press. I know more about what's going on in Detroit than my sisters (who still reside in the metro area)," he said.

This is his fourth Detroit building blitz and he calls it his mental therapy.

"I always wanted to do this. I started being an occasional volunteer to being a steady (volunteer). I do everything. I'm an electrical engineer by training. I do plumbing. I know the basics and they (tradesmen) teach me the skills and trade secrets."

The blitz began Saturday, Aug. 17, and concluded Saturday, Aug. 24. The two houses sponsored by the Grosse Pointe churches began with just the foundations. By the end of the seven days, all outside work was completed, the siding was on and the roof shingled. About 30 volunteers, plus crew leaders, came each day to work on the two houses.

Van Dusen said he has been participating for 10 years and Henry said he has a history of working on Habitat houses in Africa, Central America and Charlotte, N.C.

"I don't have skills," he said, "but I'm good for brute labor and following instructions. Jesus said be doers of the word."

Following the blitz, volunteers will complete the inside, install the windows, electrical and plumbing and paint.

The house Memorial Church sponsored is labeled "visitable," meaning it has a ramp to reach the porch and a handicap accessible bathroom.

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