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Habitat selects Knoxville for milestone 200,000th house

Habitat for Humanity selects Knoxville for milestone 200,000th house build
200,001st home to be dedicated 24 minutes later in Sri Lanka

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (March 17, 2005) – Habitat for Humanity officers and representatives will join the mayors of Knoxville and Knox County Thursday morning, March 17, to celebrate a mammoth milestone – the groundbreaking for Habitat for Humanity’s 200,000th home.

The home, which will house Habitat’s millionth person since the global nonprofit homebuilder laid its first foundation nearly 30 years ago, is being built in the Five Points area of Knoxville. Completion and dedication of the home, which will be in August, will be followed 24 minutes later by the completion and dedication of another home – in Sri Lanka, a country hard hit by the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami in the Indian Ocean basin. (Habitat completes a home somewhere in the world every 24 minutes, and Sri Lanka is 12 hours ahead of local time).

The 200,000th house will be built in eight days, with the dedication – a presentation of the key and a Bible – and move-in planned on the ninth day. To mark the event, a delegation from Sri Lanka will travel to Knoxville to help celebrate completion of the 200,000th house and a delegation from Knoxville will travel to Sri Lanka to be a part of the 200,001st dedication.

In addition to the press conference and groundbreaking in Knoxville, Habitat for Humanity will unveil its new worldwide logo, providing a sneak peek at the image that will symbolize Habitat’s work throughout the world beginning in May 2005.

“Today begins a celebration of another significant milestone in a movement that began in 1976 in the fertile fields of South Georgia,” said Paul Leonard, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International. “With this house, another family plants roots deep into homeownership, sowing the seeds for a better life.

“With homeownership, with having the security of a safe and decent shelter, studies demonstrate that children perform better in schools, people get more involved in community activities and events, adults pursue greater education,” Leonard said. “A house is walls and floors and a roof, but the people, this family – Koffi Kouassi and Tonya Harper – will make it a home, their home.”

Leonard will join Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, staff and board members from Knoxville Habitat for Humanity and others for the groundbreaking. Also expected to attend are representatives from Habitat’s More than Houses donors, an unprecedented five-year effort to move Habitat into 100 countries and to raise $500 million to build 100,000 homes in five years. Habitat achieved the 100-country mark last year and the Knoxville home marks the successful close of the building phase of the campaign.

“It took 24 years for Habitat to build its first 100,000 houses,” said Leonard. “But with the generosity of our More Than Houses partners and the thousands of volunteers who have helped shoulder this load, the second 100,000 was completed in just five years.

“While we celebrate this accomplishment, our work is not done,” said Leonard. “We need to continue to look forward and work to build with more families, which is why immediately after we dedicate this house in August, we will dedicate the 200,001st house in Sri Lanka, beginning our march to the next milestone and fulfillment of our mission – to erase poverty housing from the planet.”

“This milestone celebrates the accomplishments of Habitat for Humanity, its extensive network of volunteers and local government working together to build homes families can afford,” said Haslam. “Owning your own home is the American dream and homeownership is essential for building stronger and safer neighborhoods in our city. Thanks to Habitat that dream is coming true.”

Kouassi and Harper are the future homeowners chosen for the 200,000th house. Kouassi is a native of the Ivory Coast. They are a blended family with children, Kenny Harper, 20, Folasada Harper, 18, Jeminata Harper, 14, Koffi Harper, 9, N’Dah and Ayah Harper, eight-year-old twins. Kouassi is a cook, and Tonya is an assistant manager at a Goodwill store.

“Habitat for Humanity is one of the most committed and generous civic groups in our community and makes a profound difference in the lives of the people it serves,” said Ragsdale. “I am ecstatic that the Harper/Kouassi family from our community is the recipient of the 200,000th house built by the organization.

“We are making a considerable effort to improve the quality of life for our citizens and move toward becoming a great American community. Habitat for Humanity is helping to make this vision a reality. Thank you, Habitat, and congratulations to you and the Harper/Kouassi family.”

“Being selected as the site of this monumental build is truly an honor and will be something we as an affiliate, and as a community, will never forget,” said Kelle Shultz, executive director of Knoxville Habitat for Humanity. “We are so proud of the work this ministry does and the families it serves. This build proves the mission to eliminate poverty housing transcends borders, languages and cultures. The power of people all over the world is inspiring and a constant reminder that anything is possible.”

About Knoxville Habitat for Humanity
Knoxville Habitat for Humanity is an independent, nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that partners with people of all beliefs. Knoxville Habitat for Humanity has been an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International since 1985 and has built 265 homes. We build simple, decent, affordable homes in partnership with those in need. Volunteers and the future homeowners provide the labor in building the homes. Tax deductible donations of money, land and materials are provided by individuals, organizations and corporations.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Ga., is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. By the end of 2005, Habitat will have built its 200,000th house and more than one million people will be living in Habitat homes they helped build and are buying through no-profit, zero-interest mortgages.