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Gingrich Nails Down Floor, Others Hammer Out Platform

August 5, 1996

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ While delegates tried to hammer out a Republican platform Monday, House Speaker Newt Gingrich was on his hands and knees hammering nails into the floor of a former crack house.

With sweat dripping from his brow, Gingrich, R-Ga., worked on the latest Habitat for Humanity project that will become home to a single mother and her two children.

``It’s like playing golf,″ Gingrich said, pounding another nail into the floor. ``It gets your mind totally off what you’re thinking about.″

What’s he’s been thinking about is the presidential election campaign and the Republican National Convention, which starts next Monday. He is among several politicians and delegates who will work on Habitat for Humanity projects while in San Diego for the convention.

The Georgia-based group builds and renovates homes for low-income families with donated tools and volunteer labor.

As Gingrich hammered nails, the Republican platform committee met downtown to develop a party platform. Gingrich said he hoped delegates would take the spirit of cooperation evident among Habitat volunteers to the convention floor.

``It involves citizen volunteers in the process and strengthens the community,″ Gingrich said. ``It’s America at its best.″

At the end of the month, Michelle Bell and her two children will move into the three-bedroom house in Valencia Park, a middle-class neighborhood in south San Diego. The group bought the rundown house in May and is renovating it for Bell’s family.

``It’s a dream come true,″ said Bell, a bus driver for the Metropolitan Transit District and a Habitat volunteer. ``My kids can’t wait to move in.″

Her neighbors-to-be agree, saying they were fed up with the drug dealers and their customers wandering in and out at all hours of the night.

``I think this is outstanding, what they’re doing here,″ said Joseph Gaiter, who has lived in the area for 14 years.

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