Scientists say life is made up of atoms and energy, but I say it is made up of stories. Stories help us understand how we impact the world and how the world impacts us. Our stories can be silly, or heartbreaking, or thrilling. Some stories are brief – a spontaneous weekend getaway and some can span years – a journey of self-discovery. I think the best stories are the ones we share with other people, the ones that are experienced both individually and collectively. The people I met on the Habitat for Humanity Global Village trip to Honduras will forever be a part of my story because together we impacted the lives of a deserving family and of each other.
Our team of volunteers – a group of people, whom without Habitat for Humanity, would have probably never met – quickly became a family. We grew to know and appreciate each other’s quirks and each other’s strengths. We shared once-in-a-lifetime-excursions – snorkeling through coral reefs, touring gardens and eating exotic fruits straight from the trees, sharing meals with locals, and visiting a pineapple plantation. For me, the most impactful part of our journey was working side by side, sharing tools and water and a lot of sweat at the build site. The act of joining together to create something so life changing for another family truly fortified the bond of our new volunteer family.
When my mom bakes my birthday cake she says, “I made it with love.” That is how I felt at the build site. As I filled cinder block joints with hand mixed cement and shoveled dirt to fill the foundation, I could feel my love and energy being poured into the Espinoza’s future home. The warm air around me was filled with a surreal feeling of hope and I felt completely at peace. I could picture Tatiana and Dylan playing in their bedrooms, safely surrounded by the walls I helped to build. During our farewell celebration, after becoming so immersed in the culture of Honduras and the Espinoza family, I felt uneasy to be leaving this experience and these people behind me. The Espinoza family touched my soul and I will remember this blessing always. Just as the Espinoza family has become a part of my story, I have become a part of theirs and in that sense, I never fully left. As they move forward and write new stories in their new home, part of me will be there with them…in the dirt, in the cement, and in their hearts.
As our fiscal year winds down and some board terms come to a close, we also welcome some new faces to the team. Among these is Matt Lovo, an Auburn graduate with over 30 years of purchasing and residential construction management experience. In June, he’ll be installed as one of the new members of the Habitat Lake Sumter Board, and will be bringing his experience, talents, and passion to the team.
With a background directly related to construction, Matt’s a natural fit! He’s worked for four of the Top 25 Homebuilders and currently holds a position as Director of Purchasing for The Villages, focusing on controlling costs and innovating new ways to build homes and efficiency. Prior to this role, he worked in purchasing for various homebuilders in the Tampa area. We asked him about his previous Habitat involvement and why he’s excited to join our team and mission.
- We know you’ve worked with Habitat in the past; what was your involvement before landing here?
My past experiences have ranged from working on job sites, to working with executive committees to reduce costs and designing homes (developed plans meet needs of larger families and included a storage area as part of the home designs to eliminate need for storage sheds), and even being on the Board of Directors. Regardless of my role, the experience has always been an incredible feeling of being part of a community that helps others.
- What made you want to join the Board at Habitat Lake Sumter?
Joining the Board allows me to become better involved with the community, as I am still somewhat new to the area, and also continue my involvement with an amazing organization.
- Now that you’re part of the team, what are your goals for what you’ll give and get out of this experience?
I hope to meet new people, whether other board members, executive committees, or volunteers, while sharing my talents and passion for people and building. I also hope to raise community awareness of volunteers needed for work days, fundraising opportunities, and share the stories of the people that are helped. Another goal is to engage all of the businesses in my network with volunteering and providing any support possible, whether it is professional services, financial support, or in kind donations.
Matt is the newest addition to the Habitat Lake-Sumter team, filling the role of Development Coordinator out of the Eustis office.
Matt obtained his Associate’s degree locally at Lake-Sumter Community College and graduated from UCF in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication. Prior to and partially during his education he spent time in the United States Marine Corps Reserves, something he compares to having a house full of puppies; lots of crap, but the reward is worth it. He served with the 4th Amphibious Assault Battalion out of Tampa, FL, and was discharged as a Corporal in 2016.
Now ready to begin his professional career, he has brought his extensive background in customer service and relationship development skills (he admits to using fancy terms for “worked in retail”) to help identify, grow, and cultivate donors. Initiatives like the Veteran’s Village are appealing to Matt, both in their innovation and targeted demographics, and he is eager to help further HFHLS’ growth and advancement of their mission.
Q: What is your role at Habitat?
I am the Manager of the Groveland ReStore
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
Helping customers! I love to see how happy they are with their purchase, its enjoyable seeing the smile on their face! I also love working with my team – I have a great team.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
Habitat for Humanity of Lake Sumter has helped families in need of safe and decent housing achieve the American dream since 1989, and now the organization is in the early stages of building Veterans Village and is looking into the future. Constructing a community of micro homes—affordable housing for seniors and millennials—just may be on the horizon.