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Democrats Build Houses

September 25, 1997
By: MARGARET MURPHY
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Some Missouri Democrats who spend their time inside the walls of the House chamber will help a Branson family get a home of their own Saturday (Sept. 27).

The house is one of seven that the legislators, along with Habitat for Humanity volunteers, are building and refurbishing around the state.

The lawmakers were inspired by former Gen. Colin Powell's campaign to increase volunteerism in America, said House Speaker Pro Tem Jim Kreider, D-Ozark, who is organizing his colleagues for this weekend's event.

"We wanted to lead by example and try and increase volunteerism in our state," Kreider said. "We're going in all corners of the state and helping with Habitat homes."

Habitat for Humanity links local volunteers with families needing housing. The future homeowners pay low-interest mortgages on their homes and also invest hundreds of hours of "sweat equity" into helping build them.

"It's a 'hand up,' not a 'hand-out,'" Kreider said.

Kreider said that a lack of decent and affordable housing is becoming an increasing problem. He cited a report recently issued by the National Low Income Housing Coalition that found in over 70 percent of the nation's biggest cities, one-third of renters cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment without giving up other basic necessities.

Rep. Jim Schilling, D-Springfield, will be another legislator on hand in Branson. Schilling said the idea for the project was actually hatched last spring, when the House Democrats were promoting a package of legislation designed to strengthen the quality of life for Missourians.

"We wanted to put our hands where our mouths were, so to speak, and go out and do some work in the community," Schilling said. He said this is the first Habitat house he has worked on.

Habitat for Humanity finished building its sixty-thousandth house this week. Kreider said the Branson house is the second for the legislators. The first was in Hannibal. Other locations where the legislators will work are St. Louis, Texas County, Kansas City, St. Joseph and Fulton.

Daryl Duwe, spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party, said while volunteerism is a worthy endeavor, "to give is divine, to give without expecting any credit it for it is even better."