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Welcome to the Neighborhood

Habitat of Northern Virginia begins works on 50th house.

Don Thompson has rearranged the furniture about twice a week. The Fairfax-area man will be the owner of a new home being constructed by Habitat for Humanity in the Briarwood Trace subdivision, and whenever he comes out to the work site, he pictures the couch in a different position.

Thompson was out on Saturday, May 7, along with a troop of Habitat volunteers, raising the walls in what will become his first floor. "The feeling is unbelievable," Thompson said. "You really appreciate your home a lot more when you are involved."

Thompson looked over what will become his back wall and the concrete slab with utility and plumbing lines sprouting out of it. "I helped pound those nails," Thompson said.

Thompson’s house will be the 50th house built by Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia. This house got its start about five years ago, said Richard Semmler of Washington, D.C. Semmler has been involved in Habitat for Humanity for about nine years and has donated the seed money for Thompson’s house, among others. Semmler said he is happy to see that Thompson and his two children will be moving into this new house. "That's what Habitat is all about. It's about building houses for families," he said.

The donations for this house were stretched out over the five-year span, Semmler said. He has been on the construction site helping to build the house from the beginning of the project. "I will see it from beginning to end, from locomotive to caboose," he said.

Semmler will also be acting as a family partner for Thompson, he said. Many families who move into Habitat homes come from having rented houses, Semmler said, and are not accustomed to homeownership.

The new homeowners are used to calling the landlord about things like a leaky pipes. Family partners help explain what sort of things need to be done differently now that the family owns their own home.

THOMPSON'S HOUSE marks the third built by Habitat in the Briarwood Trace development. The other two, houses 48 and 49, were started last winter. They should be finished in the early-mid summer, said Steve Greene, director of volunteers. Thompson’s house should be finished this fall, he said.

The three houses were the first three detached houses that Habitat has built in Fairfax County. Semmler explained that townhouses are also fairly common and that two major upcoming projects will be condominiums. With skyrocketing property values and little land left for building, Habitat for Humanity has to make use of whatever properties are available. "We’re getting smaller and smaller parcels of land," Semmler said.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity, visit www.hfhnv.org.