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Flood relief leads to help for others

Through a new pilot program, Appalachian Service Project hopes to provide 10 new homes during the next year for Washington County residents living in substandard conditions.
It’s the next phase of the “New Build Washington County” campaign, according to Mayor Dan Eldridge.
“This program is an outgrowth of the partnership formed with ASP during the flood recovery,” he said.
In the next couple of months, ASP leaders plan to complete construction on the final two houses for residents who lost their homes during the August 2012 flash floods in Dry Creek.
Following their completion, ASP is directing its construction experience toward another kind of housing need.
“The success of the Dry Creek project showed us we could build some houses inexpensively,” said Walter Crouch, ASP president/CEO, referring to the combination of grants, private gifts and volunteer labor that has led to the construction of nearly 24 homes for victims of the floods.
Crouch said the new focus will be a good transition project.
“It will be an experiment for us to see how we can get the donated materials and labor to work for us without the push of a disaster,” he said.
ASP broke ground on Cherry Grove Road for the first house on Oct. 14.
Crouch said the same private donor who contributed to the flood recovery brought a group of volunteers from Fairhaven, Conn., that worked through the end of last week.
The donor, whom Crouch said prefers to remain anonymous, has funded almost 90 percent of the build.
The new home’s recipient had been renting a mobile home in Dry Creek that was destroyed in the floods, but Crouch said they’re not building for the owner of that home.
“We said, ‘Why not find an inexpensive lot and help (the renter) become a homeowner?’”
The home will be the same three-bedroom model built in the Dry Creek recovery project, with the same conditions — the house cannot be mortgaged or sold for five years.
“We believe homeownership is significant in the life of a family,” Crouch said. “We also think it’s important to build a relationship with the homeowners, even though we don’t require them to put in the sweat equity.”
In this case, the homeowner-to-be has been working alongside the group from Connecticut and ASP staff. Local contractor Roger Southerland is overseeing the volunteer labor.
Another volunteer is Cherry Grove Road resident Bill Wirt, who didn’t hesitate to walk across the street from his own home to pick up a hammer last week.
“To get good neighbors, you need to be a good neighbor,” Wirt said. “These guys are volunteering their time, and I think I should, too. I’m fortunate to be able to help.”
Crouch said the completion date will be affected by the weather and the flow of volunteers.
“It would be nice to have him in by Thanksgiving,” he said.
Volunteers also are seeking donations to furnish the home.
Crouch estimates $500,000 will be needed to build the 10 homes, and said requests for grant funds have already been submitted.
“We’re going to get this one up, see how it goes, and consider the cost and the time element,” he said.
Purchasing land on which to build the home was an exception in this case that will not be part of the builds going forward, according to Crouch.
“We didn’t like having to find a lot,” he said. “We hope to build on the current lot and tear down the old structure afterward.”
Recipients will be chosen on the basis of their average monthly incomes and the conditions of their current homes, which must be almost beyond repair.
“We want to help everybody, but it also needs to be a good experience for the volunteers,” Crouch said.
Groups interested in volunteering on the final two homes in Dry Creek or the one on Cherry Grove Road can visit for more information.