The Bell Still Tolls on Liberty Street

The Bell Still Tolls on Liberty Street
by William L. Bulla

"I have deep feelings about Liberty Street," said John Barr. "It's where I spent much of my youth."
The Liberty Street of his youth has changed. The little white chapel he attended for Sunday School and summer Bible School is gone. But the chapel bell, which his grandfather rang every week for more than 40-years, still tolls every Sunday. Thanks to John Barr, it hangs in a new bell tower at the present site of Christ Lutheran Church at Liberty and Cleveland Streets.
John's grandparents, Frank and Jane Barr, moved to a house at 423 Liberty Street after they were married and spent their entire married life of 50-years in that community. Their children grew up there, were married and lived, nearby, on Liberty and Franklin streets. Frank and Jane's home soon became the hub for all community activity. As John grew up, it was where he spent most weekends and his vacation times. It was where he attended Boy
Scouts, where he went to church, where he played with friends and family members. It became a community close to his heart.
John remembers his grandparents as dedicated to helping and serving others in need. They never locked their doors or turned anyone away. Frank, a butcher by trade, was part owner in a meat market at 300 S. Potomac Street. He also served as superintendent of Christ Lutheran Church for 40-years, as well as being active in other local activities.
This month, Liberty Street has seen two new homes completed. They are both built by Habitat for Humanity of Washington County. The home at 417 Liberty was made possible by John Barr. He wanted to do something for the community in memory of his loved ones, who had given so much to the neighborhood during his youth. Keenly aware of its track record in providing affordable housing to the low-income people, John decided to work through Habitat for Humanity of Washington County and sponsor a home on Liberty Street. Habitat is an organization, in which he believes and supports.
The dedication service was at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 10 to the memory of Frank and Jane Barr. The service began at Christ Lutheran Church, then was moved to the home for a blessing ceremony. Many Barr family members, Habitat volunteers, and residents were in attendance. Oh, yes! Members of the Barr family rang that little chapel bell at the dedication.
The other Habitat home at 427 Liberty is built on what was once the Barr rose garden. This home is the Episcopal Mi-Hi sponsored house.
Sherry Brown Cooper, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County, said John Barr and his wife, Teresa, are the first individuals to sponsor a Habitat home in Washington County.
Barr, the owner of Ellsworth Electric Inc., said building the house was a good way to honor his grandparents, who had been such an influence during his growing up.
The new home will be occupied by James Clarke and his daughter, Shanese. Clark, 55, a widower, has worked as a Habitat volunteer for the past 10 years, building homes for other people, never thinking that he would be the owner of one. Then one day, another volunteer suggested that a house be built for Clarke and his daughter.
"He would have just continued working on other people's houses and would have never said anything to us about his own need," Brown Cooper said.
Clarke told the crowd attending the dedication he was humbled and pledged to continue his work as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.
Habitat homes are primarily funded by contributions of money and in-kind donations of materials, services and land. The homes are built with volunteer labor and the "sweat equity" of 500 hours of labor by the family taking title to the home. Habitat sells the homes to the family at no profit and offers a zero-interest mortgage on the home. The money from the payments is used to build more homes.
An April "Blitz Build" of two homes in 3 days is to kick-off a series of events conducted by the 17 Maryland Habitat for Humanity affiliates for Maryland's 700th House Celebration, "Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives." These homes are on Vicki Drive in the Gateway Crossing development. The homes are a partnership between Habitat for Humanity of Washington County and the Hagerstown Housing Authority, City of Hagerstown, Penrose Properties LLC, Harkins Builders, Interfaith Housing Alliance, and Community Action
Council. One of the house sponsors is First Data Merchant Services, and the other is the Women Build program. Women Build workers receive basic skills training from the local Lowe's store.
Habitat For Humanity of Washington County, an ecumenical Christian housing ministry, is a volunteer-based organization. It addresses the most basic of human needs, a place to live and grow, by providing decent, affordable housing to the needy. For more information call 301-791-9009.