UMATILLA, Fla. — Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter is done building homes in a Lake County neighborhood.
- Habitat for Humanity builds homes for ‘Veterans Village’
- Affordable homes meant for veterans, active military
The 13 affordable homes are for veterans, activity military and spouses of those who have served.
It’s called the Veterans Village and it’s located in Umatilla.
Shawn Unger moved into the development at the end of June.
“(I) wanted to get out of the apartment living and into a home. I do have two small children in the house, so a little more wholesome living than that of the apartment,” said Unger.
Unger says he went into the Air Force when he was 17 years old after graduating from high school.
“My parents had to give me permission to do so and sign a form, and then I reported to Lackland Air Force base in 1985,” he said.
Unger’s house is one of 13 Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter started building in 2016.
Through his time in the United States Air Force and his various career tracks post-service, Shawn Unger has travelled across most of the North American continent. Born and raised in West Virginia, Shawn enlisted right after graduating high school in 1985 and spent a full year in Mississippi learning to be a radar technician. He was initially slated to head to Europe for his duty station, but it was then changed last minute to South Dakota.
Once he left the Air Force, he began working for SAIC, a major IT support company, and transitioned from there to Sprint where he worked up to a position as Network Service Manager for the AOL account. After a talk with his father one day at a NASCAR race, he decided to try out the trucking world, and drove big rigs all over the US and Canada; his last employer, out of Tampa, is what led him to make Florida his home.
He left the trucking industry to work for the Department of Homeland Security for a short while before returning to an IT position with Convergys in Lake Mary, Florida. He now lives with his two young sons, Phoenix and Caleb, while his eldest son Timmy lives in New Hampshire. Shawn is looking forward to his wedding later this year to his fiancée, Rowena, who is from the Philippines.
We knew when we built the Veterans Village that we would meet some people with remarkable backgrounds and unique experiences. After all, serving in the military is essentially a guarantee of at least a few good stories. However, among all of our homeowners in the Veterans Village, none stand out as defiantly and inspirational as Ike Fretz. Our most recent resident to move into the Village, Ike’s history of service is impressive, but it’s what he’s done – and continues to do – post-service that really galvanizes the warrior spirit.
Ike served in the United States Army from 1989 through 1994 and was on active duty for Desert Storm. During that conflict, he sustained an injury while working as part of a two-man evacuation team. His actions earned him several commendations but they also left him permanently injured and wheelchair-bound. It was several years into his recovery and adaptation process that a recreational therapist introduced him to adaptive sports, and it was the beginning of a brand new outlook.
Since then, Ike has won multiple gold medals in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games events, including power lifting, basketball, bowling, and hand-cycling, which he took to the extreme with a Washington-State-to-Washington-DC cycle in 2012. Ike says that when he competes in these games, he does so to honor other veterans that he holds dear, whether living or passed, and uses his actions in spite of adversities to inspire other veterans to keep fighting.
Because of his profound story, dedication, and impact, an anonymous donor took note of Ike’s placement into a Veterans Village home and decided to pay off Ike’s mortgage, in full, as a way of honoring how he served our country and continues to serve other veterans. We were able to surprise Ike and his caretaker, Sherrie, with the news on May 23, and have an opportunity for the donor to meet Ike and thank him in person. It was a truly moving experience and added yet another momentous chapter to Ike’s already extraordinary story.
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.
Upcoming Home Dedication:
You’re invited to join us in welcoming our newest Habitat Homeowner, Jessica, to her home!
When: Saturday, January 20 from 9AM – 10AM
RSVP: 352-483-0434 Ext. 118; firstname.lastname@example.org
Curtis was one of the first Homeowners we served through our Veterans Housing Initiative. His story is moving, and continually reminds us of the importance of a safe home.
This year marks the 30th year of Bank of America’s long-standing partnership with Habitat for Humanity in our shared goal to connect working families to affordable housing in order to build thriving communities.
Thank you Wells Fargo and The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, along with local bank employees for rallying around the Veterans Village! On September 9th, local employees will be onsite volunteering at the Veterans Village, working on homes that Wells Fargo and The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation helped fund. We couldn’t do it without you! Thank you for helping our Veterans build strength, stability, and self reliance through shelter.
Wells Fargo support thousands of national and community-based nonprofits annually to help revitalize and strengthen communities. They are among the top corporate cash donors among U.S. companies, donating $281.3 million to 14,900 nonprofits in 2016 to support financial education, community development, affordable housing, education, disaster relief, clean technology, job training, environmental education, and other critical social, economic, and environmental challenges around the world.
Wells Fargo and the Wells Fargo Foundation provide monetary support, expertise, and volunteers to national and local nonprofit organizations and causes that align with our business priorities, values, business expertise, and geographies. They focus philanthropic activities on creating long-term, strategic relationships with nonprofits and other organizations to create innovative, sustainable solutions to meet local needs. Their team members help make an even bigger impact through their passion, time, and expertise.
Noah and Carol Lundy began their journey with Habitat in January 2012. After being engaged in volunteer work and participating in financial classes with Habitat, they purchased a 3-bedroom, 2 bath home in Eustis with a private fenced yard, which was just what they needed since gaining custody in 2011 of their two nieces, Ariel and Tapanga.
They later adopted the girls in March 2013.
“One of the most exciting things about buying the home from Habitat was like putting money in the bank, so to speak, due to the payments being low enough,” Noah says. “We paid more each month, thus increasing the equity, which was exciting itself!”