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In the spirit of giving

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Christmas showed up a little early for one Chiefland resident this year, and it's likely Santa's sleigh won't come crashing through any weak spots in her roof.

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Work crews from several construction companies, using materials donated from area businesses, began replacing the leaky roof of Merci Bingaman Monday morning.

"I can't stop saying thank you," Bingaman said on the phone Monday afternoon. “I'm very blessed. It's been a very good Christmas."

Bingaman, a single mother who has lived in the home for 13 years, said she knew the roof needed work, but she's been unable to afford to have it repaired.

All the hard work and donated materials have strengthened her faith in God and in the community, she said, though, at times, she said she feels a little "embarrassed and undeserving."

But Jacob Piazza, owner of J & L Construction, said Bingaman is just the type who deserves to have a new roof put on.

"She wasn't one of those people who sits at home and waits for the government to help her," Piazza said Monday. She works hard and is very active in the community and with charitable causes.

Piazza said Bingaman was one of two people to be selected by the North Central Florida Roofing and Sheet Metal Association to get a new roof. Piazza, president of the association, said he was happy that one of the homes chosen was in his own community.

"It takes a lot of putting together. It's a lot of effort," he said of the projects, which happen around Christmas time every year. "But when you see the expression on this lady's face, it's all worth it. She was very thankful. Not everybody can afford to have this done."

Bingaman's new roof was estimated by Piazza to be in the range of $12,000 to $14,000 and included some structural repair, plywood sheathing, the replacing of rubberized roofing material and metal roofing over existing shingles. Labor was donated by J & L Construction, Gainesville Roofing and Advantage Roofing. Materials were donated by Chiefland Farm Supply, Tri-County Metals, ABC Roofing, Gulf Coast Supply and Florida Forest Products, he said.

The City of Chiefland Commission also voted unanimously to waive the permit fees for the project at its last regular meeting.

Piazza, Monday, thanked Commissioner Chris Jones for pursuing the issue.

Bingaman said she's proud of her home. "It's wonderful. I plan to live there forever."