January 20, 2008
Putnam County Habitat for Humanity is preparing for the trip to Biloxi, Miss. Kneeling is Amy Guidry, PCHFH volunteer coordinator, and standing from left are Richard Norton, construction crew leader; Jess Hawkins, construction volunteer; Pam Ealey, PCHFH executive director; and Bob Jett, PCHFH construction coordinator. Herald-Citizen Photo/Camille Fliss
COOKEVILLE -- While most people are slowly getting back into the swing of things in 2008 after their Christmas breaks, staff members and volunteers of Putnam County Habitat for Humanity have been going full steam to ring in the New Year with a bevy of projects which include a trip to the Katrina-affected Gulf Coast, an inaugural chili cook-off and the celebrated plans of building the 50th Habitat house in Putnam County.
To start off, 20 citizens from the Upper Cumberland, including PCHFH communications and volunteer coordinator Amy Guidry, construction coordinator Bob Jett, two Habitat board members and 16 volunteers, some from the Crossville Habitat affiliate, will be making the trip in two van loads to Biloxi, Miss., to start work on home construction for a Mississippi family displaced from 2005's Hurricane Katrina. Donations of vans and gasoline have been given to the cause by Heritage Ford and First United Methodist Church, and the Cookeville caravan will make their way to the Gulf Coast to start work on Monday, Feb. 4, and continue on until the end of the week.
The Putnam County crew will be only a part of the 100 volunteers per week that help the Mississippi Gulf Coast Habitat for Humanity affiliate build an average 15 houses a month in that area.
They will be working on building two different homes with two different Habitat affiliates.
"Of course, we picked the week of Mardi Gras to come down," said PCHFH executive director Pam Ealey with a smile.
The first week of February means Mardi Gras time in the south, so, while the Mississippi Gulf Coast Habitat affiliate will halt production for a day to celebrate Fat Tuesday, the Putnam County group will assist with the Picayune, Miss., affiliate before returning to the Gulf Coast area.
Volunteers usually take lodging on an old football field known as Yankee Stadium. The day before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Salvation Army purchased the land for a future community center, but, after seeing the devastation Katrina made in their area, planners decided to make it a temporary housing facility for volunteers. Others will stay at Antioch Campus, owned by a benevolent Mississippi doctor who opened his 17-room bed-and-breakfast to volunteers. For $30 a night, guests receive lodging as well as three meals from the doctor, who believed that this was the best way he could contribute to the rebuilding effort.
Ealey said that she would like to see a trip like this become an annual event. She wouldn't mind seeing a group assist a "global village" Habitat area, such as Honduras, where the PCHFH sends a monthly "tithe."
Once the group comes back from Mississippi, there won't be much rest before Habitat's next big event, managing the Home Builders Association Home Show on Feb. 29 and March 1 and 2 as well as heading up the first Great Bowls of Fire Chili Cook-off at the event.
"We're even working on Feb. 29. We're given an extra day this year, and we take advantage of it," said Amy Guidry.
"We've always wanted something else for Saturday night (of the home show) to bring more people in," said Ealey. "Carol Carney came up with the idea after we served gumbo at the past 'Cooking on the Square,' and her daughter Catherine is heading it up."
Entry fee for a two-person team is $25, with an entry deadline of Feb. 1. Chili, which must be homemade, will be made at home and brought to the Hyder-Burks Agricultural Pavilion to be judged in a blind taste test by Putnam County firefighters.
Admission to the cook-off on Saturday, March 1, with all the chili you can eat after 5 p.m., will go for $10 for adults, $7 for children ages 5-12 and children 5 and under eating free. For more information on the Great Bowls of Fire Chili Cook-off, go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Habitat at 528-1711.
Also new to the Home Show is the addition of green carpet on the showroom floor in accordance with the theme of this year's show, "Think Green." The carpet will make it easier for visitors in wheelchairs to get around the dirt floor of the pavilion. At the show will be 125 exhibitions, from landscaping to garden supplies, and plenty of businesses rolling out new products just for the show.
As of this year, Habitat will have managed the Home Show as a fundraiser for the past five years. There are still exhibit spaces left for interested businesses. To reserve a spot at the Home Show, call Amy Guidry at 528-1711.
For all the activities going on in the next few months, executive director Pam Ealey and volunteer coordinator Amy Guidry are most excited about the prospect of building more homes for Putnam County residents, namely the landmark 50th home.
"It's so exciting," said Amy Guidry. "There's such a need in the community, and the community is so supportive of us. It's great that they help us, and we, in turn, help them."
"We still have volunteers working on (houses) 47 and 48. The 49th starts March 29, and the 50th is around the corner," Ealey said. "That's a real landmark for this community -- the hundreds of volunteers and donors that helped us get to serving 50 families in need. But there are hundreds waiting. So if people think that this time of year is slow, they should come by, and we'll be glad to put them to work!"
Guidry added, "There is always work to be done