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What's Up Magazine

Habitat for Humanity Choptank

May 18, 2011 05:03PM ● By Anonymous

What they did have, however, was a dream and the will to make that dream come true. With the help of Habitat for Humanity’s Choptank—which serves Dorchster and Talbot counties—and through their own hard work, the Lakes’ now own a three-bedroom home in Cambridge. Their monthly interest-free mortgage totals $419 including taxes and insurance. It’s less than they were paying for rent. “Now I wake up every day and I can’t believe this is my home,” says Allen Lake.


Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that has made it possible for thousands of low-income families to realize the “American Dream.” The eighth largest home builder in the U.S., the organization’s success comes from community support, which includes thousands of volunteers and help from churches, businesses and organizations.

The organization’s Choptank affiliate, which has encompassed both Talbot and Dorchester Counties since 2006, has been in existence in Talbot County since 1992 and in Dorchester County since 2004. “Last fall we built our 51st home over a span of 20 years, and we have had only one foreclosure,” says Habitat Choptank’s Executive Director, Nancy Andrew. “Every house we build is a shared effort.”

Habitat Choptank has three paid site supervisors and more than 400 volunteers who have put in about 16,000 hours. “If we had to pay them, we wouldn’t be able to build six to nine homes a year,” says Andrew.

From finding vacant lots to giving new homeowners their house keys, the process begins and ends with community support—including helping to raise funds for Habitat Choptank’s million-dollar annual budget. It’s the power of the hammer.

The Lakes discovered this power when their pastor encouraged them to apply for a Habitat house. “We didn’t feel we could afford it. We were in such bad shape,” says Allen. With the help of their church, sponsors such as Ron Wolfe, and financial planner Fred Petz, the Lakes managed to get their finances under control. “So many took the time to help us,” says Allen. After a long struggle, the couple accrued the necessary $3,000 cash funds needed for settlement costs, and also met the annual income requirement.

Those weren’t the only requirements, however, to purchase their $95,000 house. Their labor, helping to build the house, was another. The Lakes’ worked along with Habitat Choptank’s 400 volunteers to hammer, paint, shingle, and install fixtures. Allen points to the ceiling of his pristine and tastefully decorated home. “I painted that myself,” he says proudly. He worked over 500 hours to help build his house. Habitat Choptank calls it “sweat equity,” and every client is required to devote 400 hours to building their house. But all and all, it is a community effort and an annual million-dollar budget is required to complete Habitat Choptank’s projects.

This is the reason Habitat Choptank board member, Kim Cassady, volunteers 40 hours a month. Every Tuesday he’s hammering or sawing at a Habitat construction site. He’s also working on Habitat Choptank’s joint venture with Elm Street Development to build a community of five duplex buildings in Easton called Milestone on Clay.

It’s why Sandra Hale, a financial planner with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, educates members of the community on ways they can donate to Habitat, and why Allen Lake is helping to build the next Habitat house in Cambridge. “When people see you try to help yourself,” he says, “they try to help you.”