When Ken Szpara was designing the sun room for a Harford County townhouse, he had no idea it would become his house.
The intern architect said he didn't remember that his boss had bought him a ticket in the annual House with a Heart Foundation raffle to help the homeless -- not until Saturday when a cousin called Mr. Szpara's mother, who called his wife to say, "They heard my name on the radio, that I'd just won a house."
"It's amazing," said the 32-year-old father of two. "Nobody deserves this. It comes out of the sky."
Actually, "it" came out of the deep pocket of David Robbins, whose Architecture Collaborative designed Jenco Homes' Belle Manor development near Hickory, north of Bel Air.
Mr. Robbins' secretary had asked him to buy a ticket for her. Instead, he purchased five of the $10 tickets on a visit to the Jenco Homes sales office and asked fellow architect Steve Frushon to write employees' names on them.
"He didn't write my name on the right one," Mr. Robbins noted.
Mr. Szpara said he and his wife, part-time aerobics instructor Joanne Szpara, 31, had a hard time affording their current home -- a small semidetached house in Hamilton, near the northeastern city limits, purchased with no down payment four years ago from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Until then, the couple and their young son, Nicholas, had been living in his parents' attic. Now -- with his wife, 6-year-old Nicholas and daughter, Molly, 2 -- Mr. Szpara found himself looking at an unexpected opportunity to move into a new home.
But not the home he won.
Mr. Szpara said he was thinking about renting his Harford County prize to Jenco Homes, which has been using it as a sales model, and eventually selling that house and his Hamilton home. The money would be used to design and build his dream house -- and to buy a lot for it a little closer to the Architecture Collaborative office in the Southwestern Baltimore County community of Relay.
"My dream has always been to build my own. This might be my only chance."
Jenco Homes President Bob Neubeck, a board member of the House with a Heart Foundation, donated the house for the raffle, while developer Alan Klatsky of Prestige Development Co. provided the land -- one of 175 housing lots in the project, where construction began last year.
More than 24,000 raffle tickets were sold, and the proceeds are being used to support homeless shelters in jurisdictions across Maryland, said Cathy Lyness, the foundation's executive director.
The foundation donated $10,000 to Action for Homeless during the winter to allocate where needed and, at the advocate organization's suggestion, gave another $10,000 in raffle money to help My Sister's Place, in Baltimore, recover from the devastating April 3 fire in which three homeless women died.
"Everybody who participates in this raffle is helping some homeless person to win -- they've helped the cause," Ms. Lyness said.