It’s been 20 years since the Rev. John Gingerich and his wife, Roberta, launched the Habitat for Humanity program in Lawrence.
John Gingerich, now 87 and a semi-retired United Methodist minister, said he got the idea for Habitat after reading the book, “No More Shacks!: The Daring Vision of Habitat for Humanity,” which was published in 1986 about the beginnings of Habitat in Georgia.
“I thought, ‘You know, we could do something like that in Lawrence,’” Gingerich said recently.
In 2009, Lawrence Habitat will mark its 20th anniversary by building what will be called the Legacy House. Its occupants will be Karim Abdelbanat and Magda Abduljabbar and their four sons.
Gingerich spent 1988 organizing Habitat. He and Roberta, whom he described as the “unofficial secretary,” operated the program out of their house. About 30 people helped build the first Habitat house in 1989. It was completed just before Christmas.
“They (the family) moved right in. It was pretty exciting,” Gingerich said.
It wasn’t hard to get people interested in Habitat because there had been enough national publicity about it and people knew of it, Gingerich said. Raising money for the program was a different story.
“At one point, somebody asked how we raised money for Habitat. I said, ‘Well, I give it and I ask for it,’” Gingerich said.
Gingerich left the Lawrence program about 10 years ago and moved to Kansas City, Mo. Earlier this year, he and Roberta moved back to Lawrence. He said he could be involved with Habitat again in an emeritus role but doesn’t plan to be specifically involved in a committee.
“I may go over and pick up some nails for somebody, but I never did see myself as a carpenter-engineer,” he said. “There’s a lot of things an amateur can do.”
Habitat built 70 houses in Lawrence in its 20 years.
“I’m in awe,” Gingerich said. “I’m just grateful that we’ve come as far as we have.”