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Churches partner with Habitat for Humanity to build new homes in St. Helens

Church leaders have partnered with Habitat for Humanity to try to make a difference in the ongoing housing crisis.

ST. HELENS, Ore. — Five churches came together Sunday to break ground on new homes in St. Helens with Habitat for Humanity.

“Faith Builds” are a more common practice for churches in more religious parts of the country, but this was a first for Columbia County.

Plymouth Presbyterian, First Lutheran, Christian Church, First United Methodist and Christ Episcopal Church are raising money to help build two new homes. So far, they’ve raised $18,500.

The effort started after church leaders got together to try and figure out how they could make a difference in the ongoing housing crisis.

“There's so many challenges to housing and to building communities,” said Dave Hutchinson, the pastor at Plymouth Presbyterian. “This is about building a community and building a neighborhood and a home, as much as it is about building a house.”

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For this unprecedented project, Habitat for Humanity picked a property at South Seventh and Plymouth streets in St. Helens, where a house was torn down two months ago.

By this time next year, two families will have a warm place to sleep on the property.

Debbie Ritthaler knows that feeling, after her family received a Habitat for Humanity home years ago.

“We had Thanksgiving dinners with my whole family and everybody together under our roof,” she said. “It's a hand up, not a hand out.”

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Now, Ritthaler is paying it forward, along with Columbia County’s faithful.

The churches have some fundraising events for the new homes coming up, including a chili cook-off at First Lutheran Church on Oct. 12.