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Bush Hammers Home Message

President Bush, continuing his monthlong vacation, left his Texas ranch Wednesday morning to help with work on a Habitat for Humanity house in nearby Waco.

He used the opportunity to promote his plan for channeling federal funds through religious charities, reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitney.

Mr. Bush strapped on a nail belt, picked up a hammer and drove nails into what would become a wall at a low-income home-building project.

When he showed up a few minutes later to speak at a decade-old Habitat house, the president sported a Band-Aid on his left index finger.

"I bumped it against a board," he said. "I spilled some blood for volunteerism."

Speaking to an invited audience of volunteers and Waco citizens on the front lawn, Mr. Bush said: "The great story of America is not in our government but ... helping a neighbor in need."

The homeowners, Otis and Thresa Gown, stood on the front porch of the gray house with blue trim as the president spoke.

"Owning a home is part of the American dream," Mr. Bush said. Helping others to build a house they may not be able to afford on their own is the beauty of America. It is a value that has existed for a long period of time, but no president should take it for granted."

The president billed the Waco event as the starting point of a tour of communities in the nation's heartland during his vacation at his 1,600-acre ranch in nearby Crawford, Texas.

Habitat, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, is a Christian-based community self-help organization that Mr. Bush saluted as an example of the religion -- and community-based organizations that should be offered more help by the government.

"We're making great progress in Washington ... in reminding Americans that the values of the heartland are the values that make this country great," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush's "charitable choice" initiative would allow religious institutions to compete for a share of the social-services money that the government distributes. The proposal has drawn criticism from those who say it would violate the Constitution's required separation of church and state.

The proposal has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.

The president was joined at the event by Housing Secretary Mel Martinez, who said he had previously appeared with the president at a Habitat house-raising in Tampa, Fla., on another torrid day.

"I'm beginning, Mr. President, to figure out what you mean by sweat equity," Martinez said.

Earlier in the day, at the construction site a block away, Mr. Bush bowed his head for a prayer by Pastor Joe Carbajal, who praised the president. "The things that you speak about on a daily basis are important to our nation, to our families, to Habitat for Humanity," he said.

During the prayer, a protester shouted "jail to the thief."

Also Wednesday, Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, had lunch with a group of corn growers at Crawford's only restaurant. They talked abou the $5.5 billion farm bill that passed Congress last week. The president said a Democratic proposal for $2 billion more was money that "wasn't going to farmers."

©MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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