Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Relief fund raises money for victims

By Eddie Lusher, President
Home Builders Association of Midwest Georgia

In the weeks since the horrifying terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, we have been touched by countless stories of overwhelming sadness, as well as amazing accounts of generosity, kindness and heroism.

We've heard emotional stories from workers in the World Trade Center recounting the minutes before the buildings collapsed: As they were running down the stairs and out of the buildings to get out of harm's way, firefighters and police officers were going the opposite direction ­ into the building and up the dozens of flights of stairs to help as many people as possible.

We have heard how passengers on Flight 93 ­ learning from loved ones via cell phone that other hijacked planes had been crashed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon ­ heroically gave their own lives to save others, preventing hijackers from crashing the plane into their intended target.

We've heard of good Samaritans who could have been running for their lives to escape the choking smoke and debris inside the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center, but who stopped to help the injured and lead them to safety.

These stories have touched our hearts, and in the aftermath of the tragedy many of us may feel overwhelmed and helpless, wondering what we could possibly do to lend a helping hand. As home builders, we reach out to help those who are hurting or needy in our communities through our many Home Builders Care projects. We build homes for those in need, we repair and renovate the homes of disabled, elderly or less-fortunate neighbors. We also raise money when it is needed, and that1s how we can help now.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and its philanthropic arm, the National Housing Endowment (NHE), and the hundreds of local home builders associations across the country have taken on one of our most ambitious Home Builders Care projects to date by establishing the Home Builders Care Victims Relief Fund. Fully 100 percent of the donations to this fund will be given to charities that help firefighters, police officers and the many other victims of the terrorist attacks.

The fund was set up shortly after the tragedies occurred, and NAHB contributed an initial $250,000; NHE contributed another $125,000. A fundraising challenge was also presented to the home building community. Privately, we set what we thought was an optimistic goal of raising $5 million.

And then something truly amazing happened. Within the first two weeks after the fund was established, more than $9 million was pledged. The Home Builders Association of Midwest Georgia has pledged $10 per member, which comes out to approximately $4,650.

Seven major publicly owned home building firms contributed $1 million each: Beazer Homes; Centex Corp.; Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc.; Lennar Corp.; M.D.C. Holdings, Inc./Richmond American Homes; Pulte Homes, Inc.; and Toll Brothers, Inc. Several other builders pledged contributions of $250,000 or more.

While these numbers are thrilling, they've made us realize that we can raise even more. A contribution to the Home Builders Care Victims' Relief Fund is fully tax-deductible. You may send your contribution to your local home builders association, or you may send it to: Home Builders Care Victims' Relief Fund, c/o National Housing Endowment, 1201 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20005.

In the coming weeks, months and likely years, we will continue to hear touching stories of the thousands of children who lost parents; husbands and wives who lost spouses; mothers and fathers who lost children; brothers and sisters who lost siblings; and friends who lost friends. We only hope that our efforts will help bring some relief to their loved ones' tremendous grief.

(Eddie Lusher, who is with Jerry Ballard Homes, is president of the Home Builders Association of Midwest Georgia, which serves a membership of approximately 460 builders and associate members in Fayette, Coweta, Spalding, Heard and Meriwether counties.)

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