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Building for a better tomorrow
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Hands on Newton and Newton Habitat for Humanity kicked off Hands on Georgia Week Saturday with more than 30 volunteers helping to build a house for a local family in need.

Doug Bolton, executive director of Hands on Newton, said the housing construction was the first of four major projects planned for the week.

"The purpose of this operation is to match organizations in need with volunteers," Bolton said. "This county is rich with citizens who want to give back. We are blessed to have so many residents who want to help others."

Later in the week, Hands on Newton will lead volunteers in landscaping the front of the YMCA After School Program building, tutoring at the Washington Street Center and providing general service for the FaithWorks program.

Of the more than 100 volunteers, 85 percent are students from Oxford College of Emory University.

Emily Penprase, coordinator of community service at Oxford College, said many of the student volunteers are enrolled in a freshman seminar class.

"Each class must work on at least one volunteer program during the semester," Penprase said.

Saturday's volunteer work marked the first cooperative program between Oxford College and Newton Habitat.

Economics freshman Chris Hammond, 18, previously worked on a Habitat home in Poland.

"It's a great program," Hammond said. "I think if you have a house you have a greater advantage in life."

The house's future owner, LaKisha Bateman, was chosen 14 months ago, said Dennis Cheek, executive director of Newton Habitat for Humanity.

"This is really just a blessing," Bateman said. "I'm very excited."

The mother of three decided to apply for a house after talking to her cousin who had previously bought a home from Habitat.

"The purpose is to build a home for those who can't afford mortgages," Cheek said. "We sell the house to her, but with no interest."

Newton Habitat was established in 1983 and has built 11 houses in Newton County in that time.

 Cheek said many people are still unaware that Habitat does work in Newton County.

"We are always looking for support," Cheek said. "Once you get these programs going, the community comes together and says, 'What can we do to help.' We just have to get the word out."

Newton County resident and Rockdale County firefighter Lanier Mote has helped build four Habitat homes in the county.

"I've been blessed on my end when people have helped me in the past and this is my way of giving back," Mote said.

Several companies, churches and restaurants have given their support to the Habitat program including Mayfield Hardware Store, which gave hammers, nail aprons and gloves to all the student volunteers.

"Hands on Newton has been a tremendous help by locating the volunteers," Cheek said. "It really has been a benefit to both us and them."

Oxford College volunteers will again work on the project next Oct. 6, the final day of Hands on Georgia Week. Cheek said state wide, more than 30,000 people would volunteer during Hands on Georgia Week.

For more information about volunteering with Hands on Newton, please call Bolton at (770) 330-7405.

To learn more about Newton Habitat, please call (770) 784-9665.