Silent auction boosts Habitat for Humanity projects

MARIETTA – Besides contributing to a good cause, many of the approximately 200 people attending Friday’s 13th annual Paul L. Callihan Dinner and Auction for Washington County Habitat for Humanity had ulterior motives as well.

“I’m hoping to get a lot of Christmas gifts tonight,” said Carla Henrie, 49, of Williamstown, as she circled the silent auction tables.

For Jason Turley, 42, of Williamstown, it was “another chance to have a ‘date’ with my daughter,” 9-year-old Mackenzie, with whom he’s attended before.

For Habitat board member Della Lewis, it’s supporting the organization that provided her with her current home – and the first Habitat house in Washington County – 20 years ago.

And for four retired Washington County residents, it was a chance to reminisce and continue their contributions to Habitat, which builds or renovates homes for low-income individuals who put in “sweat equity” on their houses and become homeowners after paying off a loan for a fraction of the house’s appraised value.

“For many years, we had an excellent group working together,” said Jerry Littlefield, 79, of Marietta. “We had a lot of fun.”

Littlefield was recruited to the Habitat cause by a fellow Shell Chemical retiree, Belpre resident Bob Anstatt. Together with four to six other regulars, they formed a core group that built friendships as well as houses.

“They (were) good guys to work with. I enjoyed it,” said Earl Smith, 81, of Lowell. “You didn’t hear any profanity or whatnot. We always had a prayer at lunchtime.

“The only thing was, they probably took breaks a little more than I was used to,” he added with a chuckle.

“We just had a ball,” said Jim Naylor, 74, of Marietta. “I even learned how to put caulking around a sink. My wife used to threaten to leave the neighborhood if I ever got out a caulking gun.”

All four men said they were drawn to the organization because it was a chance to help people in need.

Littlefield appreciated getting to know those folks as well as his fellow workers. One of them he still sees regularly at the store where she works.

“She’s still very appreciative,” he said, recalling watching her children play as he worked on another Habitat house nearby. “They were not even teenagers yet and now they’re off to college.”

Age and health issues have taken the men off the front lines for Habitat, but they still like to support the cause by coming to the dinner, the group’s largest fundraiser.

“If I can’t help by pounding nails, I can help by at least coming up with some money to build a house,” said Anstatt, 73.

And that is important, local Habitat executive director Dennis Thomas said, noting the rising prices of construction materials. He added that the organization is always looking for new volunteers, not only to take the places of Anstatt and company but also to help out in other ways.

“We’re constantly trying to reach out to people that would like to serve on the board of directors or swing a hammer,” he said.

The selection of the next family the local Habitat group will assist will take place in the coming weeks, with construction planned to begin on that home, in the Belpre area, this spring.