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Family receives 'home in a box' for Christmas

IRVINGTON (AP) — A family whose mobile home was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina celebrated their first Christmas Monday in a new Habitat for Humanity home.

Two dozen presents were piled under the Christmas tree and stockings hung around the television as Peanut, the family pig, sniffed the lights strung on the new front porch that is on the same property as the old home.

"The biggest Christmas gift we've ever gotten is this house," Freddie Blanchard said.

Katrina peeled off several feet of roof at the front of family's mobile home 16 months ago and Hurricane Ivan had torn off part of it at the rear a year before.

Blanchard's wife, Christie, said the family kept living there with blue tarps tied to the roof despite a mold that caused the children's breathing problems.

Earlier this year, Habitat for Humanity of Mobile County made arrangements for the Blanchards to receive a "home in a box, which is a relatively new approach being implemented as part of Operation Home Delivery. The program started in August 2005 as a response to the massive housing need created by Hurricane Katrina's. The four-bedroom, two-bath home's wall framing, roofing materials and other assorted items were shipped to Irvington from Habitat's office in Steuben County, N.Y., on June 26.

Over the next five months, Blanchard and volunteers from New York, New Jersey and Minnesota put the house together. The couple have four children as well as two dogs, a pig and a horse.

Blanchard said the animals were a hit with the volunteers.

"Whoever was helping, the pig would come over and visit with them," he said. "They loved feeding Peanut. The group from New York was fond of the dogs. They got them dog biscuits."

The family moved in just before Thanksgiving and the house's dedication was Dec. 16. They hope to have the mobile home removed from the property within a few months.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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