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Sailors Help Give Future Homeowners a 'Hand Up'

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

POMPANO BEACH, Fla., May 4, 2006 – Nearly 60 sailors worked to help take future homeowners' dreams one step closer to reality here yesterday.

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Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class John Mcinnis, a damage controlman aboard the USCG Cutter Elm, works with servicemembers from his ship and others to roof a house for Habitat for Humanity of Broward County, Fla. Servicemembers began working with Habitat May 1, and were to complete their participation May 4. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley

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The sailors are assigned to various U.S. and Canadian military ships temporarily ported at Port Everglades, for Fleet Week USA. They began working with Habitat for Humanity of Broward County, Fla., May 1, and will complete their involvement today.

Though on call, Navy Lt. Eric Farabaugh, a medical officer aboard the USS Shreveport, took a break from caring for sailors in the area to try his hand at roofing a house.

"It's an opportunity to get out, ... do something with the community (and) with my hands," Farabaugh said. That doesn't often happen on the ship. "I got blisters, which is nice," he said.

Farabaugh said the group's intent to "give a hand up, not a hand out" appealed to him.

"People still have to pay mortgages on the homes. They have to dedicate some time to (building) the homes," he said referring to what Habitat for Humanity calls "sweat equity." "When you get something for free there's not as much value in it as when you have to earn it yourself," Farabaugh said.

He said he enjoyed the opportunity to learn some construction skills and hopes that he and his wife will continue working with their local Habitat for Humanity group when he returns home.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Rachael Kimmey, a hull maintenance technician, said she's a longtime volunteer, but mostly with fundraising organizations. This project was her first with Habitat for Humanity, and she enjoyed it, knowing she was helping someone move into a new home.

"I (also) just think getting the different commands involved liked this (is beneficial)," she said. "It's been good just to get to know everyone better."

After a more than seven-hour day of painting in the southern Florida heat, Kimmey said she plans to work with her local Habitat organization when she returns from her tour aboard the USS San Antonio.

The effort crossed country borders, as well. Several servicemembers from two Canadian ships attending Fleet Week also participated.

Noting that Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide organization, Canadian Air Force Capt. James Atwood, a helicopter pilot who serves aboard the HMCS Preserver, said: "I think of it as a contribution to good community relations."

Mary Lou Bowman Cubbin, director of construction for Broward County's Habitat branch, said a total of 124 servicemembers logged about 868 hours as of yesterday. During that time, the troops completely shingled two of 13 houses under construction. They also painted five houses and accomplished multiple other tasks, she said.

"It is truly a pleasure to have the military volunteer with us, because they are excellent volunteers," Cubbin said, explaining that servicemembers are hard workers who follow directions well.

"The one thing that I personally appreciate is that sailors are only here on land for such a limited amount of time, often two days, and that they give up one of those days to come out and volunteer with us," she said. "I think that's really extraordinary that they're willing to do that."

The houses are divided between two sites about two miles from each other, with nine houses at the main site. They average about $90,000 to build without the land, and have a total footprint of 1,380 square feet. "Under air" space, meaning air-conditioned living space, totals 1,230 square-feet, Cubbin said. She said the homes are expected to be finished in early November.

Sailors participate with Habitat for Humanity projects every year during the annual Fleet Week festivities, Cubbin said. There are at least a dozen other times a year when various services offer to lend a helping hammer, she added.

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Habitat for Humanity

Click photo for screen-resolution imageCanadians Master Seaman Dwayne Morris (right) and Leading Seaman Justin Burton, both serving aboard the HMCS Preserver, clean painting equipment after a day of working with the Broward County, Fla., branch of Habitat for Humanity. The Preserver and another Canadian military ship, the HMCS Halifax, are participating in Fleet Week USA at Port Everglade, Fla. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageServicemembers assigned to several ships in Florida for Fleet Week USA spend some of their off-duty time working to roof a Habitat for Humanity home being built by the Broward County, Fla., branch of the organization. This home is the second the volunteers roofed May 3. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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