PAL boxing donates lots to Habitat

The North Augusta Police Athletic League Boxing Club, with its emphasis on providing a safe place for kids to work on physical fitness, academics and social skills, has reached out to provide a boost for future homeowners as well.

The club has donated five parcels of land, off McKenzie Street, to North Augusta's Habitat for Humanity affiliate, in an effort to boost the housing ministry's local outreach.

"We've held these properties for many years - probably more than 10 years - and these particular lots that we decided to deed to Habitat for Humanity ... adjoin property they already own, and they are entry lots or access lots," said Jo-Anne Newman, the boxing club's co-founder.

The donated lots, near North Augusta Middle School, are "this missing link to their property, and this link will enable them, hopefully, to build several Habitat homes, like a little subdivision of Habitat homes," she said.

Rick Berry, the local Habitat spokesman, confirmed that the local organization was running out of land. The Augusta-based Knox Foundation, he added, donated land to Habitat years ago, and the acreage donated by the boxing club adjoins it.

Berry and Newman met Oct. 24 to sign paperwork to seal the deal, in the law office of attorney Don White, who provides a variety of legal services on Habitat's behalf.

"We do need applicants," Berry noted. "Somebody might think that you'd have people beating down the doors, saying, 'We want a Habitat house.' Well, everybody wants a free house, but [for] a Habitat house, the homeowner contributes 200 to 300, sometimes 400 hours of sweat equity.

They go through some training to become a homeowner. They actually have to be in need."

Tom Ellers, Habitat's local board chairman, expressed thanks for the club's gift of land and White's donation of time and talent.

"It does our heart good to be able to put this land to use where it's really needed in our community," Newman said, speaking for herself, the boxing club's board of directors, and her husband, Noah, the club's other co-founder.

She said the decision to donate the land was actually made several years ago, after completion of the club's building in Burnettown, at 3294 Augusta Road. Making the correct contacts, however, took time.

"Even though we're a non-profit organization, this is excess land. We do still have to pay taxes on it, because it's not our primary place of operation, so we also wanted to eliminate our tax liability, but that's the major reason," Newman said.

She recalled having a recent offer, from a real-estate agent, to buy the parcels for $50 each. Her response was "No way," she said.

Berry said, "We didn't know we owned the land next door .. When we discovered that we owned the land next door, that made it more feasible."

The donated acreage will be in Habitat's land bank, he said, noting that street access to the lots does not yet exist, since the street is unfinished.

Referring to Habitat, Newman said, "We've always been interested in the work that they do, and when we had this opportunity, this just seemed like the best thing in the world that could happen for us and for them."

She added, "So many people have been so good to us, in helping with our kids in our boxing program, and these properties were donated to help us, and since they're of no help to us, we wanted to donate them to someone that they could help."

The local Habitat group is now working on its 14th house, having focused its efforts on Austin and Weston streets, off Old Edgefield Road. Details are available at hfhna.org.

Tom Ellers