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Habitat (and hope) for a local family

In New Hampshire, someone earning minimum wage ($5.15 an hour) would need to work 115 hours a week to afford an average two-bedroom apartment. But thanks to a combined effort from Habitat for Humanity, DHMC, and McCarthy Construction —the contractor for the Medical Center's current expansion project as well as for its original Lebanon facility—a local low-income family has a new home in Lebanon.

The foundation for this cozy home, a Habitat for Humanity project, was excavated by the construction firm that's handling DHMC's expansion.

"It's the greatest gift I've ever been given," says Terri Poitras, a single mother of two children. Technically, it wasn't a gift. Each Habitat homeowner provides 500 hours of sweat equity and assumes a no-interest mortgage. But payments, which average $550, are much less—up to 50% lower—than such families paid for their previous, usually substandard, housing.

This particular Habitat project presented a problem, however, since the home's lot sat on solid bedrock—which made digging the foundation an expensive proposition. So Habitat board member Austin Kovacs approached Grant Guerri, Mc- Carthy's project manager for the DHMC expansion. Guerri replied, "What can we do to help?" He explains that "McCarthy is a family-oriented company—wherever we work, we try to assist communities."

Ultimately, $25,880 was raised from DHMC, McCarthy, and 29 local contractors to complete the excavation, the sewer and water lines, and blacktop work. Volunteers erected the home's modular frame, donated by a Connecticut company, in two days. Sherry Calkins, a DHMC employee, organized a lunch for the volunteers. Habitat is "a grass-roots organization," says Kovacs, so its "success depends on the support of local businesses, churches, . . . and on-site volunteers."

Frederick Nothnagel, vice president of facilities for Dartmouth- Hitchcock, is delighted by the "enthusiasm McCarthy has shown for making a positive contribution to the Upper Valley." It's clear, he says, that the construction firm "values community service as much as we do." R.E.M.

If you would like to offer any feedback about this article, we would welcome getting your comments at DartMed@Dartmouth.edu.

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