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Habitat For Humanity Transforming Tulsa Neighborhood

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

The building of a new Tulsa home marks a milestone in the transformation of a neighborhood and a burned out church property.

It was a huge fire that burned at Bowen Indian Baptist Church. The building was abandoned but had remained an eyesore in a neighborhood in need of revitalization, and that's continuing.

The work of Habitat for Humanity started there years ago, building houses on abandoned lots, but when the church burned it opened up a big piece of property - room for seven more families.

A concrete slab in the 1500 block of East Independence was the only thing there Friday morning as volunteers arrived to begin putting up the walls.

A squad of volunteers from Oklahoma City-based Blueknight Energy Partners gathered to get building plans, meet the homeowner and hand over a $25,000 check for materials.

They also got a history lesson about where they were about to build.

The last in a string of fires finished off the Bowen Indian Baptist Church 18 months ago; it was arson and no suspect was ever found.

The owners donated the property to Habitat, which cleared the large building basement.

After decades of neglect, the year and a half turnaround is almost done.

Cameron Walker with Habitat For Humanity said, "It's really an opportunity. We've raised something, something beautiful, and it's helping revitalize this community."

Habitat is building the last two houses on the Bowen property.

A group of churches has the roof on one that should be done by Thanksgiving. The house that was started Friday should be done by Christmas.

"I think it's awesome. It's going to help a family in need, and I'm glad Blue Knight is helping do this," said Tina Payton with Blue Knight Energy.

The volunteers are working to build the house that will go with an interest-free mortgage to the new homeowner, Go Tung. He's working on it too and said the house is an answer to a prayer.

"I prayed to God, and God gave me the house, and I am thankful to Habitat," Tung said.

He's a Burmese refugee who said it took him years to get to the safety and opportunity of the United States.

He's got a lot of people helping him get a start on the house where he and his family will live.

"Given its proximity to downtown, we think we're really setting up our homeowner well to tie them into all the economic development that's happening downtown," Walker said.

Habitat has built 35 homes in the Crutchfield neighborhood, 300 others elsewhere in Tulsa, with these two well on the way.

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