HabiJax begins building blitz

50 homes to be built or restored by Saturday

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A nonprofit group, some local home builders and thousands of volunteers are determined to build or renovate 50 homes this week.

It's part of Habitat for Humanity's annual Home Builders Blitz, where more than 80 Habitat affiliates are working with construction professionals and volunteers to build, renovate or repair hundreds of homes across the country.

Thirty private home builders and 1,500 volunteers are partnering with HabiJax and the Northeast Florida Builders Association to give affordable housing options to families, many in Jacksonville's New Town neighborhood.

"If you improve neighborhoods and stabilize neighborhoods like we're doing here, crime rate goes down, education rates go up, family stability increases," said Steve Thomas of the PBS show "This Old House."

When it's done, Amatullah Attar will own one of the new home. She said HabiJax helped her manage her bills so she can save money and purchase the home.

As part of the program, she'll have to help with the build.

"It's going to be, like, a piece of mine," Attar said. "It's a true blessing for me to own my own home; it's just a wonderful feeling."

As for the contractors and volunteers baring the heat to get 50 families in new homes this week, they said the tradition has turned into a game.

"They're in a race so they are working their tails off, and the goal is your crew wants to be sitting in lawn chairs while your competitor is still building their house," Thomas said. "It's just great; they get their energy going and it's really fun."

The volunteers said doing something good for the community makes it all worth it.

"When you see the tears, the satisfaction and how they really appreciate, it's just enjoyable ... I enjoy doing it," Buddy Roha, a volunteer with A Crown Roofing.

All 50 homes are expected to be completed in time for a Saturday dedication ceremony.

"In one or two weeks time, a builder can make a contribution to his or her community about $50,000 in value, completely changing the life of a family from that point forward," said Thomas.

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