For years, the charred, boarded-up rowhouse on Allegheny Avenue near Frankford was used as a den for drug dealers and a haven for abusers.

Now, after two signatures and a jar full of pennies, church leaders and the district attorney hope to usher in a new, positive use for the rowhouse.

District Attorney Lynne Abraham yesterday signed over the house to Joe Darrow, pastor of the Cornerstone Community Church, nearby on Frankford Avenue, to be used by the church as a rehabilitation and counseling center.

"This is a civics lesson," Abraham said during a news conference in front of the house, at 2060 E. Allegheny Ave., before being handed a jar of 100 pennies to mark the official sale of the property.

"This is the first step of the transformation of a tragedy into a triumph," Abraham said. "This property was one of the worst nuisance properties in the whole neighborhood. It was a drug house of monumental proportions."

Abraham said brazen drug dealers and users would occupy the house, which was raided often. In a December 2003 raid, 13 packets of crack and drug paraphernalia were seized.

The house was sealed shut last May, before it was forfeited in July.

The mood yesterday was all about the rowhouse's new purpose, one that will help usher in what is hoped to be a transformation of this Kensington neighborhood.

"This [house] provides hope, and you will see hearts and lives changed," said Darrow, who has been with the church for 24 years.

He called the newest acquisition the "Miracle House" because of the number of people it will serve and the goodwill it should produce.

"We've built relationships with some of [the abusers] here, and we helped some get treatment," Darrow said. "We are looking at miracles each day."

Church ministry leader and volunteer, Frank Hinson, agrees.

"All we needed was for someone to reach out to help transform lives," he said. "Our dream is that this is a place for people to come to find hope."

Hinson assists with the church's youth ministry. The North Carolina native moved here in 2003 and has been with the church ever since.

The Kensington house brings to 13 the number of buildings the District Attorney's Office has signed over to faith-based and community groups, charging only a dollar for each location.

"What better way to turn something desperate and troublesome into something hopefully good," Abraham said. "They have the power to do it, the drive and zeal to do it. This is a win-win for everybody, and it will help stabilize the community and make people understand the power of togetherness and unity." *