By Josette Keelor
The first house that John Brishcar helped build wasn't like the others he's built through the years.
The project through the Habitat for Humanity had volunteers and even raised the required $65,000, but there was still one big problem: Nowhere to put the house.
As project co-chair, he wasn't about to let a thing like that discourage him. His project team went ahead and built the house anyway in the parking lot of Sherando Presbyterian Church in Stephens City. They built it in two sections, later moving it to a Frederick County property after securing the location.
"We built that house not knowing where it was going to go," Brishcar remembered recently. "[It was] truly a house built on faith."
Brishcar and his wife Cathy have since moved from Frederick County to Warren County where they've continued to head Habitat for Humanity fundraisers that they started 10 years ago. Starting in August, the Brishcars will spearhead their first project with Habitat for Humanity of Warren County -- an interfaith build for a house on Happy Creek Road that he said he hopes to have finished in time for a Thanksgiving celebration.
"It's been such a blessing to be involved in Habitat," he said. "We typically will have one house under construction all the time."
Brishcar was singing in a community choir at Sherando Presbyterian when he first started thinking about volunteering with Habitat. Beside him, he remembered, choir member Mark Bowden told him about the work the nonprofit organization does, providing decent, safe and affordable housing for families that need a place to live.
Brishcar is Methodist now and lives in Front Royal, but his devotion to Habitat stayed with him through other life changes.
"It's not just building a house, it's building a home," Brishcar said. "I knew then that my life was going to make a right hand turn."
Brishcar, who teaches sixth grade science at Warren County Middle School, and his wife, who teaches third grade special education at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School in Front Royal, run the Hallelujah for Habitat fundraiser at Warren County High School each year on the first Friday in December.
"We sing Christmas carols, pass the basket, make a couple thousand dollars and then go home," he said.
The fundraiser, which includes a singing of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from George Frideric Handel's "Messiah," usually raises $1,500 to $1,800, "which is not too bad for two hours of singing Christmas carols," Brishcar said.
The money contributes to year-round housing projects, each of which costs between $45,000 and $70,000, according to the website, http://www.warrencountyhabitat.org.
The plan this year is to make the December fundraiser a combination celebration of the completion of the fall building project.
It's about "coming together not just to build a house, build a home, but while building a home build a community," he said.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry with more than 1,400 community affiliates around the United States and more than 70 national organizations around the world.
Habitat houses are sold at no profit to partner families, and non-interest mortgages are issued over a fixed period. Mortgage payments are deposited into a revolving Fund for Humanity, which pays for the building of more homes. Families are selected by the local Family Selection Committee, and homeowners must contribute time to the building of the home.
Brishcar plans to start construction on the new house after an Aug. 9 lot blessing with St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church, Riverton United Methodist Church and a representative from the Native American community.
"I want to bring together faith communities in a common goal," Brishcar said. "People want to help and here's an opportunity."
Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org