PLATTSBURGH Supporters of the Champlain Valley chapter of Habitat for Humanity International knocked pins down so the Christian housing organization can continue to put houses up for families in need. North Bowl Lanes off State Route 9 was abuzz with excitement last Saturday as bowlers lined up frame after frame during a bowl-a-thon hosted by local Habitat members. The event, organized by Habitat member Sandy Lashua, saw 62 bowlers participate, ranging from grade school age to senior citizens. Initial tallies indicate the event raised more than $5,000 after expenses, which Ms. Lashua credited, in part, to the generosity of returning corporate sponsor Stewarts Shops. It is so gratifying to see so many people come out to help Habitat and also have fun, said local Habitat chapter president Harriet Burrell, who remarked there is a great need for Habitat in the North Country. Established in 1999, the Champlain Valley chapter which includes all of Clinton County, with the exception of the town of Black Brook follows the mission of its parent organization to build simple, affordable housing in partnership with people in need. The beauty of the Habitat movement is that it is not just a hand-out, it is a hand up. We work with people who are living in substandard housing. We help them to break into the world of homeownership by building, again with their help, a simple home which becomes theirs with the aid of a no-interest loan held by Champlain Valley Habitat. Its a win-win situation, she added. Qualifying families for Habitat housing are selected by basic criteria. At the time of their application, families must be living in substandard housing, which can be categorized by problems such as faulty and dangerous furnaces, leaking roofs, or even an inappropriate number of bedrooms for the familys size. In addition to taking on the responsibility of a zero percent mortgage, families must also be willing to put in a certain amount of hours of sweat equity, as they themselves help build their new home. The satisfaction the family gets from knowing that their house was not just given to them as a charitable act but that they were able to earn it with the help of friends and volunteers is very empowering, remarked Mrs. Burrell. Habitat is a wonderful addition to our area, added Ms. Lashua, who has been a member of the local chapter since 1996. We are providing affordable housing to families who otherwise wouldnt have been able to own their own house. In building homes, Habitat volunteers provide the majority of the labor, with individual and corporate donors providing money and materials for the builds. This is how we are able to build homes valued at $120,000 for approximately $50,000, said Mrs. Burrell. The chapters first house was built in 2000 on Cumberland Head, in the town of Plattsburgh. Since then, the Champlain Valley chapter has built four more houses on Wallace Hill Road, also in Plattsburgh. Most recently, the organization began the build for its sixth house at 7 Hill St. in Keeseville. One reason for the success of the Champlain Valley chapter, as is the case in most organizations, is the support it receives. Mrs. Burrell credits Habitat volunteers as being the back bone of the organizations, as there is no paid staff for the chapter. Paid labor on the job site is also limited to only jobs for which volunteers lack expertise, she said. Those who may shy away from volunteering because they have no experience in carpentry, plumbing or electrical repair, need not worry, said Mrs. Burrell. There is a job for everyone. When working at the building site, there are many ways for the unskilled to help, said Mrs. Burrell. Sometimes people who are interested in learning to swing a hammer become the best at it after just a little practice. There are, however, many other ways to help Habitat both daily at the site and in the organization as a whole. We are always looking for committee people to help with fundraising, family selection, public relations, finance, writing for our newsletter and coordinating volunteers. An interesting and important point Mrs. Burrell said she would like to point out is that all money donated locally earmarked for local projects, stays local. Only undesignated donations will see 10 percent go to Habitat for Humanity International to build homes elsewhere in the world. An average Habitat house in a third-world country costs $5,000, said Mrs. Burrell. So, whenever we earn $50,000 toward a house in Clinton County, we have also housed a family somewhere else in the world. For more information about the Champlain Valley chapter of Habitat for Humanity International, contact Mrs. Burrell by phone at 643-9778 or via e-mail at
. Information may also be found on the organizations Web site, www.cvhfh.com. Those interested in volunteering at the current build site in Keeseville may call Pat Cleveland at 578-4857, through email at
, or show up at the Hill Street site Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Donations, which are tax-deductible due to the organizations not-for-profit status, may be made payable to Champlain Valley Habitat for Humanity, P.O. Box 55, Peru, N.Y. 12972. In addition to Stewarts Shops, donations from Auntie Annes, Plattsburgh, tourist attraction business Ausable Chasm and North Bowl Lanes also added to the bowl-a-thons success, added Ms. Lashua.