by Lee Owen
Some say there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Some say it’s probably a train.
But not Priscilla. She’d just smile and say no, not a train. Something entirely unexpected and perfectly poignant. Something that includes you, dear reader.
After being laid off in 2009, Priscilla focused on education to improve her long term job prospects: an AS in Building Construction Technologies, a BAS in Supervision and Administration at UCF, and an AS in Drafting and Design. She graduated Suma Cum Laude, with Honors for highest GPA. Her mentor encouraged her to pursue her Master’s degree. All the while, she was working part time and driving an hour each way to help with her elderly mother’s medical appointments.
And then a tunnel named Alzheimer’s made its all-consuming debut. With no extended family in the region, the next step was obvious: she withdrew from the Master’s program, then left her job to become her mother’s fulltime caregiver. She even tried working from home but her mother’s needs made it impossible.
That was in 2014. By the time her mother was approved for Medicaid help in 2016, she and her savings were exhausted, credit cards were maxed out, and she’d sold every major item she could to help with the expenses. With all that going on, there wasn’t time, money, or energy left to keep the home in good repair. Then one day a friend told her about Habitat for Humanity’s Preservation and Repair Program.
Priscilla called Habitat and began the application process. She shares that the staff’s compassion and attention to detail were a great encouragement. Habitat’s site supervisor helped the volunteers and sub-contractors understand her mother’s needs. They performed their duties with gentleness, caution, and overall excellence.
“Never once was I made to feel I was ‘less’ because I was in need, or that I wasn’t worthy,” Priscilla says. “How the Preservation and Repair staff do business should be the benchmark for all other organizations that profess missions to help those in need.”
Her days of wondering if there’d ever be a light at the end of the tunnel are over. Habitat’s volunteers and sub-contractors made interior accessibility modifications, painted the house, tore down a rotting shed, removed dead trees, hung a “Welcome” flag, gave new life to the flower beds, and added a bird bath. Outside their living room window, a new light is shining. And no, it’s not a train. It’s one that Habitat’s Preservation and Repair team chose especially for this yard: a solar-powered flamingo light.
And how are you, dear reader, a part of this? Your support—by reading our newsletters, telling others, volunteering, and donating—has enabled us to reach more families who need a light at the end of their own tunnels. And the entirely unexpected, perfectly-poignant moment you helped create? Well…
“Each time my mom comes into and leaves our living room, she looks out the front window for that light.” Priscilla pauses, then smiles. “What all those people didn’t know is that my mom loves flamingos.”
So, keep reading. Keep telling others. Keep sharing what your Home Town Habitat is doing to lighten the lives of those who need a hand up, not a hand out. Together, let’s light up Lake and Sumter Counties!
Also, we’d like to pass along information about the team that Priscilla set up for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event in honor of her mother. The Walk is on October 6th at Lake Eola in downtown Florida, and if you’d like to support her and the cause you can do so by donating, walking with the team, or both! Information on both can be found here.
SUMMERFIELD — James Collins sat in the shade on the porch of his Summerfield home and watched as two engineering students from France worked on a wooden ramp.
The addition of the ramp in April made the house more accessible for Collins and his wife, Deborah. Both have health problems that make climbing steps difficult at times.
“You can’t believe how important this ramp is for me and my wife,” James said. “I’m at a loss for words about this, and I’m never at a loss for words.”
The Collinses have lived in Summerfield for 13 years, and for most of that time they were able to make their own additions and repairs. But this time, they needed a little help.
The ramp was built as part of the Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter Florida’s Preserve and Repair program. It is just one of several ways Habitat is able to help families attain or keep affordable housing.
Since 1989, the Lake and Sumter Habitat has provided 265 homes for families in Lake and Sumter counties, said Danielle Stroud, Lake and Sumter Habitat director of development.
Stroud added that volunteers and sponsors are important elements in providing affordable housing for residents. Their donations of time, money and materials keep the costs down for new homes and repairs. The nonprofit has 4,000 volunteers who contribute 30,000 hours of volunteer labor annually.
This week, thousands of women will participate in Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week. Lowe’s Home Improvement sponsors the national event with financial and volunteer support for hundreds of programs.
Locally, Habitat is planning to serve nine families in Lake and Sumter counties this week, including in Umatilla, Wildwood, Leesburg and Mount Dora, Stroud said.
“So far, we have 50 women set to volunteer,” Stroud said. “We still have some availability, so women are welcome to reach out to us.”
Anyone interested in participating can contact the office Tuesday or Wednesday for more information at habitatls.org.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what does it take to keep that village up? An active community!
While our usual Preservation and Repair projects focus on individual homes in need of exterior restoration, clean-up, and accessibility improvements, we know that there’s bigger ways to meet the needs of our community. That’s why we’re partnering with various local groups – from police departments to churches – to start providing these types of services to larger groups of homes at one time. By addressing a larger group of homes with a larger group of volunteers, our impact is, well, larger.
For the first “Spruce Up The Block Party” event, we’ll be heading into Mt. Dora and putting our efforts into the homes on Gorham Street. With some homes having come from the 1930s, there’s many ways we can gear up, buckle down, and get to work. Most efforts will focus on increasing the safety and cleanliness of these homes while improving the appearance of the area as a whole. Not everyone wants a new house, but it’s hard to turn down a fresh coat of paint, a pressure-washed driveway, and a well-groomed yard. Homeowners and community members will get to interact and work together on this initiative, creating a stronger bond and forming new relationships.
Volunteers from all backgrounds and experience levels are welcome! We’ll have our experienced staff on-site to coordinate efforts in conjunction with other community leaders, so don’t worry about being new to the game. For more information about dates, locations, and how to get involved, head to the event page here!
For many organizations, the check you write, the cash you donate, or the credit card you charge is the last you see of those funds. However, we don’t want you feeling like your donations are sent to a mysterious account with unknown results; to help ensure that doesn’t happen, we provide an annual Impact Report that details the work we’ve done and how your contributions have been put to use in the community. With various initiatives and passions among our partner base, we know it’s a reassuring and rewarding feeling knowing that your desire to help a certain program has measurable and tangible results!
Read over our report and take a look at the last year of progress, and remember that all those lives affected have been due to your continued support; on behalf of your Hometown Habitat and the homeowners we serve, thank you!
Publix Super Markets Charities has been a consistent partner in our Preservation and Repair program for the third year in a row. They just recently announced a major partnership with Habitat for Humanity International and numerous affiliates; here’s a snippet of their press release, but for the full spread you can check it out by clicking here!
LAKELAND, Fla., Dec. 7, 2017 — Publix Super Markets Charities (PSMC) announced today it would donate $5 million to more than 125 Habitat for Humanity affiliates, including those impacted by Hurricane Irma, and over 30 shelters and other nonprofit organizations across the Southeast.
This generous donation continues the Foundation’s commitment to meeting the basic needs of the communities it serves through additional financial support for housing, transitional support and client service programs.
“No individual or family should have to worry about the basic needs of food or shelter,” said Carol Jenkins Barnett, President of Publix Super Markets Charities. “I am honored our Foundation is continuing my father’s legacy of supporting the communities Publix serves. And I am so proud of our Publix associates for giving their time and talents to building houses and providing hope to those in need.”
(Eustis, FL) Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, in partnership with Lake Cares Food Pantry, the Cross Church, and Second Harvest Food Bank, will offer free cases of bottled water, baby supplies, and food on Monday, September 18th and Tuesday, September 19th. Local community volunteers will be onsite to assist with the distribution, excited to help residents throughout the area who are still without power.
Distribution will take place from 9AM-12PM Monday and Tuesday at 710 South Bay Street, Eustis Florida. Monday’s distribution will consist of water and baby supplies only while Tuesday’s distribution will offer food, water, and baby supplies.
The donation of water came from the Lake Geauga Habitat for Humanity out of Chardon, Ohio where the local Habitat affiliate has been accepting donations of water all week for transport to the area.
Over the next few weeks Habitat of Lake-Sumter will mobilize resources to support local community members with repairs to homes damaged by the storm. To donate or volunteer visit www.habitatls.org or call 352-483-0434.
Free service helps low-income residents with disabilities better navigate in and out of their homes.
By SARAH WILSON, The Villages Daily Sun
For anyone making their way through life relying on the assistance of a wheelchair or walker, navigating stairs can be a struggle – especially when those stairs stand between them and the world beyond their front door.
Beulah Slaymaker, 97, was confined to her home for months earlier this year when she no longer had the strength to get out of her wheelchair and make her way down the four steps from the front porch of the Sorrento mobile home she shares with her daughter, Shirley Wencel.
Wencel had to cancel doctor appointments and switch to home health care for her mother after it became too unsafe for the pair to navigate their way down the stairs.
Then Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter stepped in.
Since January, program coordinator Shari Kuck said, Habitat has installed four ramps for disabled, low-income residents of Lake and Sumter counties at no charge to the homeowners, including one for Slaymaker in July.
Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter collaborated Friday with the Rotary Club of The Villages Noon to conduct their first project of the year in Lady Lake.
The project was to provide extensive landscaping, siding repair and painting for a home in Lady Lake.