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Local officials celebrate new 'Habitat' home

Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Brenda Rayburn sees her organization being able to help more people move into homes, now that the group is moving into a larger home of its own, in Jonesboro.

Rayburn and other officials from Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, as well as several local, elected officials, and an official from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, celebrated the home assistance group's purchase of a 30,000-square-foot warehouse on Tuesday. The celebration was highlighted by a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Rayburn said the warehouse space will give the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate, which serves Clayton, Henry and Fayette counties, a place to store home-building materials that can be used later during home builds. The affiliate has never had a storage facility, she said.

"Habitat International offers opportunities to local affiliates to get materials for free, or at least at a reduced price, but you have to get these materials by the pallet-load and you have to have a place to store them," Rayburn said. "We couldn't take advantage of that before because we didn't have any place to store these materials ...

"This will raise our capacity, and lower the cost of building supplies. When it costs less to build a house, we can build more homes for families."

The local Habitat for Humanity affiliate will spend 2010 renovating and moving into its new home, which is located at 9570 Tara Blvd., said Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity Spokesperson Cara Welch.

She said the move is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Bill Lacy, president of the Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, said he was "extremely excited" about the group's move into the warehouse.

"We will be able to move forward, to the next level in terms of providing services to the Southern Crescent," said Lacy, who is also the interim chief of the Henry County Fire Department.

Welch said the facility was purchased in December, using $885,433 that Clayton County officials gave to Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity as part of the Community Development Block Grant money the county received last year.

The money is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, several Habitat for Humanity and county officials said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday.

Mary Pressley, the director of community planning and development for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the purchase of the warehouse represents the kind of projects for which federal officials wanted to see stimulus money used.

"I'm just so happy that Clayton County got the message that went out from the White House," Pressley said. "We wanted to make sure the money went to projects that were shovel-ready."

Welch said the warehouse also will help the group by giving it a place to do indoor, home-building projects during cold-weather months. Wall frames, for example, can be built in the warehouse, she explained. "We can start to put structures together in the warehouse for those times when it's cold outside," she said.

Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell said Clayton County as a whole will benefit from Southern Crescent Habitat from Humanity having the warehouse, because it could lead to some additional jobs.

"We came together with the money we have and leveraged it to create new jobs," Bell said.

Lacy said the new jobs would come from the affiliate being able to call on local subcontractors for work on homes that are being built. Those subcontractors include electricians, people who install heating and air-conditioning systems, and plumbers.

"Anything that allows us to build more homes will provide more work for our subcontractors," Lacy said.