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CV Volunteers Helped Build Projects Across the Continent

By Jim Haskins

In the early 80s, a group of youth and adults at Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham led mission trips to Tennessee and Maryland to build with Habitat for Humanity. In 1985, Durham Congregations in Action (DCIA), an organization of 24 local churches and faith communities, officially founded Habitat for Humanity of Durham. Since then, Habitat for Humanity- Durham has helped more than 600 families achieve their home-ownership goals—more than 400 in Durham and 200 internationally.

Read on how several current CV residents have donated their time and home-building expertise over the years to Habitat for Humanity:

Pete Jones was a radiologist at Watts Hospital, then Durham Regional Hospital, working for a total of thirty years. The “Geezer” Chairman of the Board for Habitat for Humanity for a long time, he helped construct 250 houses during his retirement. (The nickname “Geezer” is bestowed on all volunteers who have committed a significant amount of their time to the cause over many years.) Pete spent 16 consecutive years “blitzing”- building a house at a Hurricane site in a weeks’ time. Pete met and worked with former President Jimmy Carter in Americus, Georgia in 1996. A master woodworker, he spent non- habitat weekends in his 25×25 foot workshop at his home on Kerr Lake.

Chick and Dorene Palermo started donating their time and talents to Habitat following their retirement in September, 1999 when Hurricane Floyd devastated eastern North Carolina. Chick and Dorene joined Pete and other Durhamites to assist with the recovery effort and hundreds of homes that were hit. Over the next twenty years, Chick was promoted to “super geezer,” continuing his weekly local Habitat builds. He also helped in the office and became a board member. Dorene’s activities included several years on the Habitat board, overseeing software for managing/ tracking Habitat resources. She also helped create and work on Habitat blitzes for women.


Habitat for Humanity International, generally referred to as Habitat for Humanity, is a U.S. non-profit organization which was founded in 1976 by couple Millard and Linda Fuller. Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organization. Currently Durham Habitat is one of 1,500+ affiliates in the United States and 550 affiliates that coordinate Habitat for Humanity house-building projects in over 3,000 communities across the world. Even before former President Jimmy Carter made it one of his favorite causes, several Croasdaile Village men and women helped build homes for Habitat for Humanity in Durham, around the country and continent.

George and Emilie Beglane came specially prepared to work for Habitat, always living in older-built abodes that they were constantly upgrading. George, a retired software engineer, was a Habitat “geezer” who worked two days a week and continues to serve to this day. Unlike many of her female counterparts, Emilie worked on the house builds with the men. The pair also were part of two missions to Honduras building homes for the impoverished Central Americans following devastating hurricanes.

Other CV residents who have spent a great deal of time working on Habitat for Humanity projects include Dick Clendaniel and neighbors John Morgan and Dave Decker. Dick specialized in doing electrical work on homes, while John and Dave came along at a time when Habitat was building miniature playhouses to raise funds for the increasing costly projects. Building playhouses were actually team-building exercises by corporations who would pay $25,000 to cover the building expenses, have workers build their house in a day’s time, decorate it, and raffle it off to the highest bidder. John and Dave liked helping train the inexperienced corporate workers how to build their playhouses while making many new friends.

John and Jean Willard’s involvement in Habitat actually started in 1991, working with a group of five- Durham Episcopal congregations. In 2016, they built a ‘Hospitality House’ in honor of a Habitat for Humanity-Durham founder Rt. Reverend Robert C. Johnson, Jr., an Episcopal Bishop and deceased husband of Barratt’s Chapel Court Drive resident Connie Johnson. The family chosen to inhabit this new Habitat home was an immigrant family from the highlands of Vietnam.

Resident Steve Harper, a member of the Congregation at Duke Chapel, helped these Jarai immigrants find jobs and taught them how to manage money so they could support their families and pay the very reasonable mortgages that their sweat equity labor earned by helping them build their Habitat homes.

In 1992, Dr. Edwin Wray of then St. Luke’s UMC, put a stake in the ground to start the Habitat for Humanity Eastern Panhandle affiliate in West Virginia. That came after he organized and took  nine of his parishioners to a Hurricane Hugo “blitz” build in South Carolina in the fall of 1989. Since then, they’ve built 36 houses in their three-county area.

At least two other CV residents who were once UMC pastors, Bob Wallace of Aldersgate UMC and the late Bill Jeffries of Parkwood UMC Church, led their congregations in building Habitat homes for their communities’ under-privileged residents.