CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) – With only $3 in the bank, things had been looking pretty grim for the Crawford Peace House.

The telephone was cut off last month for nonpayment. The co-founders used some of their own money to pay the mortgage and electric bill for the four-room bungalow, which opened a month after the Iraq war began in March 2003.

Then came Cindy Sheehan. The grieving California mother’s quest to talk to President Bush about the war that claimed her 24-year-old son’s life inspired thousands of war opponents across the country.

More than $150,000 in donations have poured in to the Peace House since Sheehan arrived Aug. 6 and started a makeshift campsite along the road leading to Bush’s ranch. Because the rural campsite is small, many of the hundreds of visitors have spent their time a few miles away at the Peace House, which has become Sheehan’s headquarters.

Not only is the phone back on, but the $54,000 mortgage is about to be paid.

“This has gone absolutely way beyond our imagination or expectations ever,” said Hadi Jawad, one of the co-founders.

The Peace House, just across the railroad tracks from downtown Crawford, was established as a place for activists to gather in Bush’s adopted hometown. Jawad and John Wolf, affiliated with the Dallas Peace Center, bought the white-clapboard house for $65,000. They made the down payment with proceeds from selling anti-war buttons for $1 apiece at peace rallies.

But many of the town’s 700 residents view the Peace House as a nuisance and harmful to the town’s image.

Residents held a pro-Bush rally last summer to counter the Peace House’s screening of the scathing Michael Moore documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Three thousand people watched the film on a large inflatable screen at a high school football stadium.

Sheehan’s protest, which she plans to continue in the nation’s capital after Bush’s monthlong vacation ends next week, also is drawing harsh criticism and counter-protests, including a pro-Bush rally set for Saturday in town.

“People have said, ‘Enough is enough – enough Bush bashing,”‘ Gregg Garvey of Keystone Heights, Fla., said Thursday after traveling to Crawford for the rally. His 23-year-old son Justin died in Iraq in 2003.

“This (protest) does not represent all of America.”

Bush has said he appreciates Sheehan’s right to protest and understands her anguish but will not change his schedule to meet with her. Sheehan and other grieving families met with Bush about two months after her son died last year and before she became a vocal war opponent.

Amid all the controversy, the Crawford Peace House has been bustling with activity.

The living room has tables of anti-war literature and a computer, the walls adorned with quotes from Mother Teresa and others. One sign reads, “Cindy Sheehan, American hero,” and another demands “Impeach him!” under a picture of Bush.

Pots, pans and dishes are crammed into every nook in the kitchen. A back room has been turned into an extra pantry, with canned food on wire shelves. Sleeping bags, sheets and blankets are piled on a couple of twin beds in a tiny bedroom.

Outside, about 10 sleeping tents have popped up and dozens of plastic chairs are grouped in several circles, where people gather each night.

“It’s a peace feeling here right when you walk up,” said Jack Mills of Austin, who went with his wife, Barbara, to support the war protest and spent a night at the Peace House. “You can feel it. You feel like everybody’s here for the same purpose.”

It’s a far cry from before Sheehan arrived. For months, no one had lived at the house, which was only open during weekly meetings of the Waco-based Friends of Peace.

Earlier this month, Jawad learned of Sheehan’s plans to come to Crawford and handed over the keys. Sheehan has said she was so touched, she immediately wrote a $250 check so the telephone could be turned back on.

It has since been ringing nonstop, with calls asking where to send money, flowers for Sheehan and directions to the house.

Jawad wants it all to continue after Sheehan leaves.

“Hopefully they’ll keep coming here to discuss and meditate, to make the world a safer place for all of us,” he said.

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