The Garcia-Herrara family is a loving, close-knit family of four that believes better day are ahead of them. Ana Luz is a single mother to her son Julio and her twin girls, Nallely and Nataly. Her kids are very respectful and help look after each other while their mom is at work. As a family, they attend Catholic church every Sunday. “I teach my kids to pray and stay positive about life’s challenges and to surround ourselves with positive and loving friends and family.”

After overcoming many hardships, Ana Luz remained determined to provide a home for her family. They bounced around to various apartments, but in 2013, she purchased a used trailer. Repair work is much needed, and ongoing; there has been termite issue as well as roof leakage. In anticipation of Hurricane Irma, they fled their trailer for safer shelter. While it remained intact, Ana Luz feared future weather threats and decided to apply to the Habitat Program.

They were thrilled to be accepted into the program, and to begin working towards a better future. “l feel blessed to be a part of such an amazing program. The kids are all so excited to finally be able to look forward to having a safe forever home.”

Although it has been challenging balancing work, being a single parent and completing her sweat equity hours, Ana Luz realizes the sacrifice will be worth it to her family in the long run.

“With a Habitat home, we will feel confident and assured that we are in a safe place. We will know that we can relax and enjoy living together in a forever home.”

Johanys is a hardworking single mother of four children. She is proud to have been raised to provide for your children at all costs, and she does just that. Although her is a licensed dental assistant, she put her dental career on hold to become a full-time cleaning professional.

She explains that the hard labor job pays more, and she “would rather work hard and be able to provide for them at my max. I am planning for my kid’s future at the moment. I will worry about me when my kids are out of college and have a chance in this world.”

Finding a safe and affordable home that accommodates four children has been a challenge. The family of five has been living in cramped two bedroom apartments, with the three oldest kids sharing one room. This results in her teenager, William, having no privacy.

So, she applied for the Habitat Pinellas program. When she found out they were accepted, she remembers thinking it was a miracle. “I felt an exhale of relief, my worries and stress have been lifted and joy for my children to not have to continue to move each year. I’m so ecstatic to give my kids their own rooms.”

For Johanys, becoming a Habitat homeowner means she can provide her kids a permanent safe place. “It will reassure my kid’s future knowing they will have a permanent home and the money I can save for their college. We are so grateful. I imagine being able to go on vacation. I feel like their futures will be promising.”

This home is sponsored by the ReStore. The dedication will be celebrated on October 22nd at 4 PM. The home is located at 12614 132nd Ave N, Largo.

Chhaya Soeung is a single mother to two kind, intelligent teenagers. The family of three have been living with Chhaya’s parents for the past 14 years, all sharing a bedroom.

Living in crowded home with just one bathroom and no privacy has been difficult for the Soeung family. “I may not be able to give my kids all that they want, but I will always show my support for their dreams. My two kids are my everything.”

Soeung tries to provide for her kids the best she can, so she applied for the Habitat program. “I was in complete shock when I found out that I was accepted into the program. First thing I did was tell my kids.”

Soeung learned a lot during her sweat equity hours. “There were so many funny moments trying to figure out how to hammer in the nails or even using a nail gun.” By the end, Soeung was comfortable with using a nail gun and even a circular saw.

“I imagine that my life and future will be different with a Habitat home because I will finally be able to have a nice space for both my kids and I. I am excited most for my children to be able to decorate their own rooms for the first time.”

Soeung believes that everything happens for a reason and, even though her journey has been an emotional ride, she couldn’t be happier to start this next chapter.

“I am excited to create new memories and adventures in our new home. I imagine spending many beautiful holidays in my new home and meeting new neighbors.”

 

Join us for their home dedication on October 20th at 9 AM. The home is located at 4225 53rd Ave N, St. Petersburg, FL.

Kendra Alexander is a hardworking single mother of five children. Kendra works as a teaching assistant and is proud of her large family. The Alexander’s are close-knit, and pride themselves on their determination to overcome hurdles and to love one another.

The family of six is currently living in a crowded three bedroom rental home in substandard conditions. They are facing multiple issues including mold on the walls and ceilings, plumbing problems and roof leakage. The space is so tight that her two twin 17 year olds are sharing a single room with only one twin sized bed.

When she found out that she was accepted into the Habitat Pinellas program, Kendra remembers thinking, “Alright, my first milestone to becoming a home owner, now it’s time to kick it in gear.’” She is ecstatic to put renting behind her and is happy knowing she will finally own something that she can call her own for her kids.

“I am building because I would love for my children to feel a sense of ownership - something that is ours, something we built together as a family.”

Kendra recommends the program to other families looking to change their lives. “This program is life-changing, it’s shaping me to be more self-reliant and stable. My family is building a sense of unity by work together on our home.”

 

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County is honored to be considered for the HEART Awards, in the Collaboration category. Affordable housing is facing a crisis in our community, so we are happy to be collaborating with other like-minded nonprofit organizations to provide affordable housing options to low and moderate income families throughout Pinellas County:

1. We’ve partnered with Sustainable Communities, an organization focused on affordable housing in South St Petersburg. This organization has historically focused on rehabilitation of dilapidated homes, but working with Habitat Pinellas, we completed our first NEW home project in 2018. We are on pace to build 4-5 homes this year in partnership with this organization. This will be in addition to the 60 homes Habitat Pinellas will build this year.

2. We’ve also partnered with St. Jude Great Commission Community Development Corporation, to construct their very first home as they launch their CDC. St. Jude has been providing home buyer education services in the Midtown community of South St Petersburg for many years, but partnering with Habitat, who will serve as their contractor & developer, they will be able to place one of their home buyer education recipients into a new home.

3. By partnering with the Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-entry Program (PERC), Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County has been able to provide onsite training opportunities for PERC’s clients. These ex-offenders are looking to build skills they can translate into the working world. They also will use the skills learned on a Habitat construction site to help construct “Tiny Homes” through PERC’s tiny homes program, which may ultimately lead to them owning one of their own.

As written for Habitat World Magazine

Tithe Testimony from Mike Sutton, CEO of Habitat of Pinellas County
By Mike Sutton


Our organization, Habitat of Pinellas County, finds ways to include the work that we do internationally in the work that we do locally. For example, at each home dedication we take time to acknowledge our home-for-a-home program: for each house we build in St. Petersburg, Florida, we build a house in Guatemala or Malawi. This has helped us from a local standpoint by making it known that Habitat is not just at work throughout Pinellas County and the United States but also throughout the world, as our ministry touches hundreds of thousands of lives each year.


Before joining Habitat of Pinellas County, I worked for an affiliate in Texas for 5 years. We tithed on average $2,000 - $5,000 annually to the global work. We were not really engaged. That affiliate has since become more engaged, but my experience at Habitat of Pinellas County has always been different. One main reason is because there are great champions for the global work within our organization, such as Gabby who is the VP of construction. She has been with our organization for 10 years and has led a number of Global Village trips. Gabby, along with several other staff, helps our organization stay focused not only on our local impact but also on our global impact.


Our organization has made a commitment internally to the tithe program. We budget for our tithe, and at the end of the fiscal year, we finds ways to give extra. This commitment is possible through strong board support. We cultivate this board support through a variety of ways. For example, at least one board meeting each year is dedicated to the international work. In addition, a few years ago, we had Susan Yow, the director of affiliate tithe and global engagement at Habitat International, come talk to our board about the global work. During her visit, we hosted a panel of three individuals in our community who regularly join our global village trips and who talk passionately about our global work. Ironically, these three panelists do not support Habitat of Pinellas County locally and so are only focused on our global engagement. Susan’s visit and this panel helped our board understand that not every single person is going to support us locally, as some people are just more interested in our work abroad. Recently, Kelvin, the national director of Habitat Malawi, also visited our staff and board to talk about the impact of our tithe. These visits build up great excitement around our tithe and global engagement.
Our organization is very fortunate to have a board that trusts our staff to make recommendations around our tithe. Our global work is driven largely by these passionate and dedicated staff. Malawi, in particular, has tugged at our heart strings. We have really rallied behind them in terms of support. For example, we have made a commitment to Habitat Malawi to send a global village team every other year to build with them. The trip to Malawi is a bit expensive though, and so our organization also offers global village trips to Latin America and the Caribbean region, which is more affordable and can attract a different type of supporter. We are looking forward to our next trip to the Dominican Republic in 2019.


Our organization continues to think creatively around how we can do more. We are in the initial planning stages for a fundraising event that Kelvin with Habitat Malawi would help us to host through which we will raise awareness about and funding for future global village trips to Malawi. We would also highlight the need for adequate housing in Malawi and other low-income communities around the world. This type of event is all about listening to the donor, which will allow us to attract new supporters. We are looking forward to this great event next year, among other global initiatives.


Mike Sutton is the chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Click here to learn more about the upcoming Global Village Trip to the Dominican Republic.

 

Carla Jamison began training with the US Army Reserve in 1987. After joining the army full-time, Carla was trained in Telecommunications and served in Frankfurt, West Germany with the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion until 1991. After leaving Germany, she was stationed at Fort Detrick in Maryland, where her Active Duty Service came to an end. Throughout her years of service, Carla has been honored with the Army Service Ribbon, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal.

As a US Army Veteran and proud mother of 3 children, Carla is a strong and resilient woman. Having lost her own mother at a young age, Carla has remained determined to provide a safe and loving environment for her children. Despite their efforts, life has not been easy for the Jamison family. Carla’s middle son grew up with a great affection for basketball but was diagnosed with an enlarged heart, forcing him to give up his dream of playing. Carla and her children look forward to working with the Veteran community to make their dream of homeownership a reality.

Contact Alison Riley at ARiley@habitatpinellas.com or (727) 536-4755 ext 215 to learn how you and your organization can support the Veterans Build.

 

This month’s Volunteer Spotlight is highlighting Alejundro Sanchez. Alejundro, a Verizon employee of 19 years, originally began volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in his home state of Washington.

“My first experience with Habitat for Humanity was in Washington State in a small town called Burlington. At 22, I was working for Horizon Bank. They asked if anyone would like to volunteer and I excitedly offered my time. I showed up at the site and was ambitious to help. I met a few of the new home owners that were more than excited to greet me and thank me for my time. I spent all day there and looked forward to learning more about building a home and all that goes into it. The pride I felt that day still resonates in my soul.”

In 2016, Alejundro and his partner moved to Florida and are currently in the process of building a home together. Alejundro continues to donate his time through the Pinellas affiliate.

“I initially volunteered to learn more about what it takes to build a home. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to rely on the expertise of the onsite crew and foremen to teach me and help me avoid mistakes if I ever needed to work on my own house in the future. I hoped I would learn more about wiring, drywall, roofing and everything else. In a sense, it was kind of selfish, at first but my perspective changed once I realize who was depending on me to help and who was counting on me to put my hours in to finish the project on time. I soon found out how important volunteers are to the people who need this.”

Alejundro loves meeting new people through his experiences at the ReStore and on build sites.

“What I love about volunteering are the people you meet. I wouldn't have met any of the workers or volunteers if I didn't invest a little of myself to give back what I have been so graciously given. To name one man, specifically, is Dalton. He managed and volunteers at the Palm Harbor ReStore and each day I helped I saw how he ran the entire operation. He's what I would consider a solid pillar of the community. The hard work that he has put into the store, shows. It runs so smoothly; not only in the layout but also in the people who work and volunteer there. This has been my best experience volunteering.”

Habitat Pinellas is grateful for our amazing volunteers and their employers! Alejundro recently donated 50 hours of his time, and through his employer’s volunteer matching program, Verizon donated $750 to Habitat Pinellas.

Does your company offer a volunteer matching program? Contact Alison Riley at ariley@habitatpinellas.org to learn more. Interested in volunteering? Click here to find more information.

 

 

 

Doug and Gwen Campbell became familiar with Habitat about 20 years ago through Doug’s former job. Before entering into the real estate industry, Doug was in a food service training position. He was able to get local restaurants to donate lunch that he and Gwen delivered to Habitat job sites. The Campbell's got reacquainted with Habitat Pinellas in 2017 by joining Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Dunedin North at the annual Community Builders Breakfast. At the breakfast they were inspired to contribute $100 from every real estate transaction they complete. They joined the Community Builders Society by making a three year pledge. They are paying it off early and continue to support with memberships in Hammers & Heels and Hunks with Hammers.

One day while volunteering on 2 job sites in Garden Trail they had the opportunity to witness a homeowner’s dedication. Gwen mentioned that she sells houses all the time but to see someone work so hard to receive their keys brought tears to her eyes. Doug and Gwen understand the importance of raising children in a safe and secure home. They also understand the importance of the classes and sweat equity that homeowner candidates are required to do in order to get the keys to their home.

The Campbell's are generous with their time, talent, and treasure. In addition to Habitat Pinellas they volunteer with Keller Williams Red Day, KW Kids Can and their church, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Gwen said “People’s hearts are good”. Habitat can say “The Campbell's hearts are good”.

To get your business involved, please contact VP of Corporate Partnerships and Marketing, Alison Riley at ariley@habitatpinellas.org or 727-536-4755 ext 215.

Laquinda Currie is a single mother raising two young sons. In addition to being a mother and a medical biller/assistant, she is coping with Sickle Cell Disease.

“The most challenging part of it all is when I get sick and have to be hospitalized,” explains Laquinda. “I hate being away from my boys, so I try my hardest not to get sick or do anything that I know would possibly hinder my health. I have been working at my job for 12 years to provide a decent life for my boys. Yes, it is a struggle but my faith keeps me going.”

Laquinda’s sons also keep her strong, and they are “the reason for her life”. Her oldest, Sam Jr, is an 8th grader who loves football, basketball and track. Semaj is in the 3rd grade and is independent and outgoing.

Their current housing situation is substandard; the roof recently collapsed, and they are forced to live with water damage and mold issues. They do not feel safe in their current neighborhood, and have already had their car broken into twice since January.

Laquinda is looking forward to having a place her and her family can call home. Their new home will give her kids the opportunity to play outside and feel safe when their mom is resting. 

When the Currie’s found out they were accepted into the Habitat Pinellas program, Laquinda said, “I was so happy. I was proud that I could finally move my boys to a safe home.”

The Currie Family has been named the Habitat Pinellas 500th Home Build. The 500th Home Dedication is set for Monday, October 8th at 9:00am in St. Petersburg.