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Finally, a home of their own

Caring Episcopalians, Pinellas Habitat for Humanity and sweat equity make possible a family's first home.

Published September 30, 2006

CLEARWATER - Like many young men his age, Michael Casey moved out of his parents' house at 19 to start his own life.

Twelve years later he was back - but impoverished. With his girlfriend, Barbara Massonne, and their young daughter, Elisabeth, in tow, he was forced to move in with his mother and father, long-distance truck drivers who are home only a few weeks of each month.

Casey, now 36, started getting his life back on track. He and Massonne, 42, were accepted into the Pinellas Habitat for Humanity program two years ago and have put in 400 sweat equity hours. They helped build five houses for other low-income families, which enabled them to qualify for a house of their own.

Now Casey, a cook who works the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. graveyard shift at a Perkins restaurant, Massonne, who works in the cafeteria at Clearwater Central Catholic High School, and Elisabeth, 12, are on the verge of getting a house on Palmetto Street in Clearwater, just a few minutes away from his parents' place.

Pinellas Habitat for Humanity bought the property for $11,000 from Clearwater Neighborhood Housing Services.

"This will be the first home that I've owned," Casey said. "Without this house, I'd be stuck in a two-bedroom apartment."

The project is being funded by the Clearwater Episcopal Deanery, a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church in the United States. The group calls itself Episcopalians for Humanity and has formed a partnership with Pinellas Habitat for Humanity.

This is the first time the two organizations have teamed up to perform community service for needy people.

Dudley Savage, the coordinator of the charity effort, said the partnership started months ago when a men's group at his church, St. Anne of Grace Church in Seminole, wanted to build a frame house as part of Pinellas Habitat for Humanity's Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

After the men's group presented its idea to the deanery's 14 churches, most of which are spread out from Marco Island to Brooksville, 12 of the churches decided instead to sponsor a house in Pinellas County.

Savage said the churches raised more than $25,000 for the project in just two days. The deanery went on to raise a total of $55,000.

Several members have also agreed to install the air conditioning, roof and flooring for free.

"It's really cool," said Savage, a yacht broker. "I love construction. I love giving back."

No start date has been set, according to Jamie Cataldo, communications director for Pinellas Habitat for Humanity.

Although the final design has not been determined, she said it will be a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house. She said it could take up to four months to complete.

More than 150 people attended a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 23 at the lot where the house will stand, including Bishop John B. Lipscomb, head of the 33,000-member diocese, who blessed the site.

"I'm excited, of course," Massonne said. "I was totally overwhelmed at the groundbreaking."

Times researcher Tim Rozgonyi contributed to this report. Eileen Schulte can be reached at or 727 445-4153.

[Last modified September 29, 2006, 20:56:09]

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