“It was harder than I thought it would be,” says Frances Garrandes after pounding nails with other women volunteers to construct and raise a 55’ wall on a home in Eustis. “But I’ll be back next year!”
Hammering in the heat and humidity didn’t slow her down. That determination to accomplish goals is evident throughout her life, including going back to college to finish her undergraduate degree at Stetson University, then finishing her Master’s Degree at age 50 through Strayer University. As a Property Manager at Disney, she’s even exploring ways to further her education as a Project Manager, a field she finds exciting and rewarding.
“I’ve been blessed in life and feel I need to give back.” When she heard about the Women Build campaign at an International Women’s Conference, she knew she wanted to get involved.
“I believe in Habitat’s program. They don’t give houses away; potential home owners have to go through the mortgage application process, they must give back through volunteer hours and by supporting someone else’s home construction.” She adjusts the pink hard hat on her head and smiles. “This program is a great boost to help someone who can’t do it on her own.”
She signed up for the Women Build events and began posting about her volunteer plans on Facebook. She was determined to raise at least $1,000 so she could be inducted into the Sisterhood of the Pink Hard Hats. By using social media to spread the word, she ultimately raised $2,200 and received the affiliate’s first-ever traveling trophy, “The Most Excellent Fundraiser” purple shoe.
Having raised three children as a single mom, she understands the importance of closing the gap between the cost of renting versus buying a home. Habitat’s program often means a mortgage payment is several hundred dollars less than a typical monthly rent. That financial “space” gives a family the financial breathing room it needs for other important things, such as healthcare.
And what does she get out of all this?
“I get the satisfaction of knowing I’m helping someone else. This will be my first time helping to construct a home, but it won’t be my last!”
-Lee Owen, Habitat Volunteer and Community Advocate
Jasmine Jacobs held tightly to her 6-year-old daughter’s hand as they walked up to their new home together. Awaiting their arrival were some of the people who helped her become a first-time homeowner, including 11 seniors from the construction management academy at The Villages High School. The young builders stood proudly outside the brand-new home on Winners Circle in Lady Lake as it glistened in the sunlight Friday morning.—Rachel Stuart, The Villages Daily Sun
As the first graduating class, the success of the partnership between the Villages Charter School and Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter was evident in the smiling faces of the new homeowner, students, teachers, and sponsors alike.
As the Youth Construction Academy expands to include Leesburg High School and over 70 new students; the success and growth of the Youth Construction Academy is due in no small part to United Way of Lake-Sumter. United Way has chosen Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter to receive an education grant in support of the Youth Construction Academy.
The Villages Charter High School students worked alongside industry professionals, instructors, and Habitat Construction Manager, Barry Martin, to build the house as part of their capstone project; construction began in August with the students building as their first period class.
“They were able to hone their construction skills and get a realistic feel for the business,” said Bruce Haberle, instructor of the construction management academy. “It’s a team-building experience where they were able to give back to those who are less fortunate.”
United Way’s mission is to “advance the common good by focusing on education, income and health,” Habitat of Lake-Sumter and United Way share in the belief that these three things are the “building blocks for a good life—a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health.”
Thanks to United Way of Lake-Sumter and their ongoing partnership with Habitat’s Youth Construction Academy, the graduating class will be the first of many students to gain experience, acquire employable skills, and engage in the social responsibility and community impact that shapes professional and personal development.
“It’s been amazing, and they’ve done a great job,” said Danielle Stroud, Senior Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. “We really hope they learned something along the way, which is the purpose of this partnership.”
Check out some photos from the dedication on our Facebook Page!
As many of you know, Habitat Lake-Sumter started our Preservation and Repair program in 2015 to serve homeowners who didn’t want or need a new house, but couldn’t afford to keep their current one in good condition. The program was meant to provide help with the exterior of a home – weatherization, safety, accessibility, and beautification – and we quickly realized how large the need was in our area. Since then, the program has grown rapidly, serving over 50 families last year with the help of specialized funding and a large pool of awesome volunteers.
However, the need is still larger than our ability to meet it, and because of that we’ve continued to explore new ways to help grow our abilities. So many families are in need of more than we usually provide and we’ve decided to seek out ways to provide ‘Critical Home Repair’ services. The newest method to accomplish this is with funding through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Preservation grant program. These funds are meant to help agencies in rural areas to serve homeowners with similar assistance to what we’re already doing, but with more significant backing, allowing us to expand the scope of our projects. We were selected to receive a grant this year and we’re already looking forward to how to implement it. Part of the USDA guidelines are that funds expended are matched, and through a partnership with Bank of America we’re ahead of the game there as well.
Bank of America has regularly partnered with us through the years and they’ve continued to support our efforts as we move ahead into 2019. This will help us reach the matching requirements needed to obtain even larger funding, which means larger projects and larger impact, and that’s what we’re all about. Things like a new roof, interior work like replacing failing floorboards or replacing doorways with handicap-accessible frames, and more come with additional expenses; this new source of funding will help us handle that in stride and continue to provide this work to families in need at no cost to them.
Sometimes these jobs seem like nothing to us, but the impact it can make on a family is huge. Whether they’re a small family that’s been living with a tarped roof for three years, a disabled vet who can barely leave the house due to accessibility issues, or the multi-generational family who has to find towels and buckets during Florida’s storms – one day of our time results in a changed life for them.
Are you a homeowner who wants to see if you qualify for our Preservation & Repair program? Contact Veronica to learn more.
Partnering with local businesses, civic groups, and more has always been crucial to building Habitat’s ability to, well, build. Without a reliable network of volunteers and donors, our mission would be dead in the water, and the dream of safe, affordable housing would remain just that for so many people. As part of our growing network, we’ve teamed up with CVS Pharmacy to reach some families in need in the Wildwood area! CVS will be sponsoring three days of work through our Preservation and Repair program, which helps people remain in their homes while ensuring safety and accessibility needs are met, at no cost to the homeowner.
What We’re Doing
The Preservation and Repair program is vital to helping us make the most of the existing affordable housing stock and allowing people to remain in the homes they already own. The work involved can run anywhere from simple clearing of debris to replacing windows and doors or, often times, installing an accessibility ramp to allow easier access to their home. These projects, while often low difficulty for us, many times mean the world for those we serve, and the program has grown quickly in the last couple years. Here’s the details on this upcoming partnership project:
Date: September 18, 19, 20
Time: 8AM – 1PM
Location: 5175 CR 144, Wildwood, FL 34785 and 308 Jackson St., Wildwood, FL 34785
We need volunteers! To get involved, please contact Carlos at 352-483-0434 x119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CVS Pharmacy is a proud partner with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. As a company, they always lead with heart and their mission is to help people on their path to better health in all aspects of life. CVS recognizes the importance of Habitat for Humanity’s mission to build homes and and helping make our community as healthy as we can.
They are also excited to introduce a WALK-IN hearing center in your community. Within the CVS Pharmacy store in The Villages on E. County Rd 466, the Hearing Aid Center is offering WALK-IN hearing exams, over the counter hearing aids, and FREE fittings & cleanings. Stop by today and HEAR what they’re all about, ask questions, or get any existing hearing products serviced. The Hearing Aid Center is located in the CVS Pharmacy at 5208 E County Rd 466 at the corner of Belvedere Blvd and open Tuesday – Friday (10am – 5pm) and Saturday (10am – 3pm).
Hospitality. Hard Work. Stewardship. Innovation & Creativity. The pillars of Citizens First Bank were put on shining display this year as they sponsored our inaugural Youth Construction Academy class! Recognizing the value of hands-on education for the next generation, our longtime partner decided to invest in the Youth Construction program and help us ensure it gets off to an amazing start. Beginning on August 9th, the house in Lady Lake will be built from the ground up by seniors from The Villages Charter School’s Construction Science program, with guidance from experienced Habitat supervisors and instructors from the school. By the end of their year in May, they will have completed a full build, from concrete to keys, and be invited to participate in the dedication ceremony for the low-income family moving in.
Citizens First Bank was founded in 1991 and is headquartered in The Villages, Florida. Their two branches, one in The Villages and one in Leesburg, provide top-quality service focused on the needs of their area. By providing comprehensive banking resources and personalized experiences to their community, they are able to fully embrace their place as a hometown bank, and share a special relationship with their clients. For more information on the services they offer, check out their website here or give them a call at 352-753-9515 or 800-707-1893.
As National Women Build Week came to a close, so did The Villages Insurance’s second Team Build with us. This group has been a strong partner of Habitat Lake Sumter for a while, promoting our cause and supporting our events. This month, they came out to work on-site during Women Build and helped us serve a family in Leesburg with some much-needed repairs and renovations. Having strong community partners is key to doing the work we do, and The Villages Insurance helps to fill those ranks with some great people and a drive for service! We wanted to learn more about what continues to drive them to participate in our mission, and this is what they had to say.
- Why does The Villages Insurance enjoy getting involved in Habitat’s mission?
Scott Robertson, former president of The Villages Insurance, was passionate about Habitat for Humanity and its mission. It was important to him that the agency partner with Habitat and our colleagues take a hands on approach in assisting with projects. The first build the agency participated in took place one week before Scott’s unexpected passing. We continue our involvement because it brings us great joy to give back to our community and lend a hand up to families working hard to pursue their dreams of owning a home. Participating in builds and preservation projects is a truly humbling experience. The fact we are working side by side with the homeowner, seeing the excitement and pride first hand, is heartwarming; reminds us that the sweat, sore muscles and bruising are so worth it!
- What experience has been the most meaningful/impactful?
They are all unique and hold special memories in their own right. If I must choose then I’d have to say the first one in November 2015. As I mentioned earlier, this was one week before Scott passed away so it holds extra special memories for everyone who was involved. This was our first experience working with the Habitat team and all the amazing people who work hard to make every step of the program possible for the volunteers, homeowners, professionals, and sponsors. This build was for the Elien Family home, and what a joy it was to see their daughter’s room decorated beautifully at the dedication knowing we helped put the nails in the foundation for her to grow on.
- What are your thoughts on National Women Build Week and the message behind it?
Love it! I think many people still believe you have to be a man with strong muscles to build a home. The National Women Build reminds us all that we can do anything we put our minds to. It’s not necessarily about physical strength (although that certainly helps!) but more about the willingness and desire to help fellow humans wanting to improve their lives and open a world of opportunity for their family. Hard to believe I know, but quite a few of us in the agency are not carpenters or painters. Ask us how to protect the home and we’re your expert! Ask us about what nails to use in which board and we rely on the experts on site to show us the way! We cannot say enough good things about our experiences with Habitat for Humanity. Thank you for the opportunity to be involved, we only have one question – when’s our next our project?
If you think you’re as passionate as The Villages Insurance and would like to share in the experiences they’ve had, reach out to Matt at 352-483-0434 x146 or email@example.com to discuss upcoming opportunities and how we can get your and your group involved!
One of the ways we get our community involved with our mission, beyond writing a check or attending an event, is to get them out on the work site on a Team Build. This creates a sense of ownership and engagement with the project and can feel so rewarding that some groups come right back for more! While many businesses, churches, and civic groups will come out once a year, some want the back-to-back experience; one of these groups is My Favorite Things out of Eustis, and they put in some serious work at the Veterans Village.
My Favorite Things emphasizes a culture of giving in their mission statement and focuses every aspect of their operation on fostering that mindset. A family-run business, they want to make sure that all employees are treated as one of their own and that everyone gives back, as a group. Putting their hands behind their words, their first Team Build in March was some low-glamour, high-necessity work at the Veterans Village. Their team primed an entire house with a healthy, paint-ready coat, and they scraped the floors in another house to have it ready for flooring. While it wasn’t the flashy stuff, the work they did was crucial for the next steps to happen on schedule.
On their second work day in April, we treated them to some more hands-on type of work. Splitting into groups, one worked on installing flooring and the others prepared the kitchen cabinetry for installation and finished up some decorative patio pillars. They breezed through the flooring like it was second nature and the patio is ready for some final touches, and as they wrapped up for the day said they were excited for the next one!
It’s this type of engagement and enthusiasm that keeps our projects ahead of schedule and helps us further our mission. If your group is interested in joining us, reach out to Matt at 352-483-0434 x146 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get hands on for a hand up, not a hand out.
A Beginning and an End
On April 14th, Habitat of Lake-Sumter was proud to dedicate three new homes and officially welcome the Homrich, Dyhr, and Mabry families to the Veterans Village! The families were honored for their hard work and dedication through the completion of the Home ownership program, and were celebrated on beginning the first chapter of their new journey. This event came as the perfect ending to a season of generosity in our community, as local donors alongside RoMac-Lumber & Supply raised money in support of the community through the March Match campaign.
The Veterans Housing Initiative has always been a special cause to Don Magruder, CEO of RoMac, and his pledge to match donations, dollar for dollar, inspired donors to give generously… doubling their investment in affordable housing. This year, the match ran through the month of March, and because of the community’s generosity and dedication to the mission, the campaign met and exceeded the goal of $10,000!
Our Community Partner
As one of our long-standing partners, RoMac Lumber & Supply has been a huge contributor to our mission and has enabled us to continue reaching the community across Lake and Sumter county. RoMac has been a staple of Lake County for over 70 years and has expanded to serve much of the Southeast United States. Whether it’s wood, trusses, doors, or otherwise, RoMac has remained a steady supplier of quality materials and service for central Florida and beyond.
Our Homeowners, The Reason to Give
In attendance to greet and celebrate our three Veteran families were 20 community members. The joint home dedication, gave an opportunity for food, fellowship, and viewing of the families homes. Each homeowner has their own story to tell, but here is little bit about each family:
- Greg Homrich served in the United States Marine Corps, Army, and National Guard, and is still serving his community as a dispatcher for the Leesburg Police Department. Upon getting to know Greg, you will quickly find out that he is most excited about becoming a member of this unique community, having already built relationships with many of his neighbors.
- Beth Dyhr, is the spouse of her late husband who proudly served in the United States Marine Corps. As Beth’s first home as a single women, she is thrilled to start a new chapter in her life and instill her own passionate, vibrant spirit into the home.
- Kathleen Mabry was a member of the United States Army, and her ability to define strength through adversity left a mark on our staff. She is proud to be a new homeowner, and shared that the opportunity is most special because it offers a safe and secure home for her to raise her 10-year old grandson.
About the Community
The Veterans Housing Initiative led us to develop the Veterans Village in Umatilla, Florida, where veterans and their families enjoy safe, affordable housing built in a small neighborhood that focuses on relationships. Our ability to meet the needs of our local veterans is due to the compassion and generosity of our community and through partners like RoMac. We also teamed up with Combat Veterans to Careers to offer extra services to the residents – things like healthcare, transportation, and help navigating the Veterans Affairs system, to name a few. This ensures that we’re providing not just a house but a community network of support, which for many veterans is crucial for the stability they seek.
As a community-based and community-focused organization, it’s always inspiring to see how much can be done on a local scale. Your consistent support, whether it’s financial or volunteering or both, never ceases to amaze us, and we thank you so much for it! We’re looking ahead eagerly to the next big project and can’t wait to bring you along for it.
There’s a big reason happy hour is usually so happy – buy one, get one! Everything is better when it’s doubled, and it’s no different for your donations.
We now have an amazing opportunity to make your $25, $50, or $100 donation go twice as far and help us build twice as many homes for low-income veteran families in the community. For the entire month of March, our longtime partner and sponsor, RoMac Lumber & Supply, will be matching every dollar donated to Habitat for Humanity of Lake Sumter, up to $10,000! All proceeds under this program will go towards our Veterans Village in Umatilla, Florida, and will help us place more veterans in need into a new home. For many of these families, home ownership is just out of reach, but with your help we’ll be able to give them a hand up and help them towards a more stable future.
In a month otherwise known for its madness, take a moment and donate towards someone’s peace of mind, brought by the fact they now have a safe, affordable home to call their own. You have through March 31st to double your dollar!
Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply was founded in 1945 by the McDonald and Robuck families when they jointly purchased Woods Lumber Company in Green Cove Springs, Florida. A second yard was opened in Tallahassee, Florida in 1945, and the company officially took the Ro-Mac name with the purchase of Leesburg Lumber and Supply in 1947.
The flagship store in Leesburg went through a major renovation in 1950, and was a leading provider of construction materials in the Central Florida area. In 1972, a fire devastated the facility, and the Robuck family, along with members of the community, rebuilt the facility.
During the 1980′s, the company added its door shop, and expanded the Leesburg operation to offer more services to the professional customer. In January 1988, Dan Robuck, a successful practicing attorney in Central Florida, took the lead and became sole owner and CEO.
Under Dan Robuck’s direction, the company opened a store in Lady Lake, and acquired Golden Triangle Supply in Mount Dora in the early 1990′s. The company greatly expanded its garage door installation business with several acquisitions, and it became a leading provider of commercial doors and hardware.