From being the first female president at Lake County’s Reunion Bank of Florida, to being a super mom to two daughters and wife of her husband Jeff for 27 years; Gail Baker brings a powerful background and endless enthusiasm to the Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter.
“I enjoy volunteering because it creates a team spirit and it makes a huge difference in someone’s life,” says Gail, newly appointed member of the board. “I look forward to working alongside my peers in the Habitat mission.”
Gail Baker has lived in the Lake-Sumter area of Florida for 25 years and has grown to love and cherish the work at Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. Gail has partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter for over three years, prior to becoming a board member.
“Making a difference in someone’s life is what inspires me to do what I do,” Gail says. “Firstly, Habitat for Humanity provides safe, decent and affordable housing for individuals and families who work hard every day to make a difference for themselves. Without Habitat, these dedicated individuals may never achieve such goals that so many take for granted. Secondly, Habitat provides sound financial education, which leads to long term personal success.”
Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter has been serving the community since 1989 and has four main initiatives: Home Ownership, Preservation and Repair, Veterans Housing Initiative, and Construction Academies; with the ultimate purpose of creating communities where everyone has a decent place to live.
Gail also serves as treasurer for the Lifestream Foundation Board and in her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family. Gail is looking forward to serving the board to the best of her abilities and providing a positive and enthusiastic outlook to the team.
Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter is grateful to have such an experienced and positive person on the board in Gail, one who strives to inspire and encourage those around her.
By Katrina Machetta
- CEO/OWNER – CHEF DE CUISINE, THE KITCHEN COOKING SCHOOL AND CAFE
- EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR-FOUNDER, KITCH’N LYFE SKILLS, INC
- FOOD COLUMNIST, DAILY COMMERCIAL
Although it may look like there is a lot on my plate, consider it all relative. Being a chef and instructor gives me the opportunity to share my passion with others. I am proud to have been an inaugural speaker for TEDxEustis, inaugural Lake County Schools Hall of Fame inductee, award winning chef, on air food personality for FOX 35 Orlando, weekly Daily Commercial food columnist and monthly podcast contributor. If the list doesn’t seem long enough, add being sought out as an industry professional and consultant regarding food insecurity and culinary education to persons with mental and physical disabilities, and offender community reintroduction support. However, my main joy in life is being a Christian, wife, mother and now a Mimi, (Okay, so some refer to this position as grandmother. I choose progress.)
“I understand that when it comes to food and the disparities in our communities any positive energy in this direction can change the world.”
I chose to join the Habitat board because of my commitment to my community when it comes to battling food insecurity with unique perspectives and, believe it or not, home ownership is one major weapon in the fight. I hope that I can be a conduit when it comes to different housing options and support of communities and neighborhoods looking to change the landscape and quality of life. Anything that I can positively be a part of is worth my precious time and efforts, Habitat Lake-Sumter is definitely high on my list.
What I am most looking forward to achieving in my term is helping bridge the gap of misinformation when it comes to home ownership, support different housing opportunities and varied community plans. By doing this, my main goal of helping those affected by food insecurity get on a track to home ownership that will help to end a vicious cycle of food disruption in their household.
I would love to introduce a program to our future and current homeowners that includes basic cooking lessons and kitchen safety. We all need to eat. It is pivotal that we learn basic cooking concepts and food procurement processes to ensure that not only do we survive but that we thrive, especially in today’s climate. Home ownership and cooking can serve as more than a place to live and adding the ability to provide healthy meals will allow us to do much more in our lives and communities.
Being the former pantry manager and volunteer at Lake Cares food pantry I was afforded the opportunity to meet so many people and understand the problems they faced. Although I have never officially volunteered on a build, I look forward to assisting on future builds and obtaining one of Habitat’s pink hard hats. I firmly believe that Habitat’s position of being a key component to building your house is the groundbreaking factor when it relates to home ownership. In closing, with my aforementioned mission in life of being the General when it comes to battling food insecurity with a unique perspective and helping to end the cycle of poverty; through affordable housing & home ownership, and with varied community & housing options. By doing this I hope we are able to further assist potential candidates not only to obtain housing but thrive in their homes as well. The dots are there, let’s connect them.
Greetings to all who have supported Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter this year! While 2020 has been a trying year for us all, I wanted to say thank you for your continued support of the organization and all the good work we have been doing. Despite the unexpected challenges caused by the coronavirus over the last three months, Habitat Lake-Sumter successfully continued to build homes, community, and hope – as I reflect at the close of our 19-20 fiscal year, I would like to share a snapshot of just some of the accomplishments we are celebrating, in partnership with you.
Community Advocacy & Leadership
- We saw an increase in community buy-in from local leaders on the need for attainable housing for our communities. This resulted in action by the Lake County Commissioners voting unanimously to approve an impact fee waiver program for affordable housing units – this will help underwrite the cost of construction for homes, making the entry point of home ownership accessible to more people.
- Habitat Lake-Sumter CEO, Kent Adcock, will be participating in leading the charge for research and development of the Lake County Attainable Housing Strategic Plan. By taking a leadership role in Lake County’s Strategic Plan, Kent gives a voice to those in our community who need access to attainable housing.
- For the first time since 2007, the Florida House and Senate have agreed to fully fund the trust for affordable housing, The Sadowski Trust Fund. Resulting in a total of $370 million dollars of funding for the entire state of Florida, instead of taking money out to fund other projects like in year’s past. State-level changes are made possible through local advocacy!
Building More Homes & Creating More Partnerships:
- We have weathered (and continue to weather) the storm of the pandemic as an “essential business,” continuing our mission with care and attention to necessary health and safety precautions
- As an essential business, we’ve built 6 homes in our service area and served an additional 45 families through Preservation & Repair– including 7 Veteran households.
- Completed our first Inmate Construction Academy home in partnership with Lake County Sheriff’s Office
- Completed our first home, in partnership, with Leesburg High School through the Youth Construction Academy
- Thanks to the $100,000 Disney Grant and great exposure from our television series, Habitat Academy, we garnered additional community support for the Youth Construction Academy program and as a result will be adding South Lake High School as our third partner school next year.
One last thing I really need to shed light on is the daily, creative leadership of CEO, Kent Adcock and the outstanding fundraising and administrative skills Senior Director, Danielle Stroud, uses for Habitat Lake-Sumter. Also, I could not leave out the Board and staff; truly the mark of any great organization is the people that are at work in it, and the above highlights are made possible by their dedication to the mission and belief that everyone deserves a place to call home.
Feliciano Felix Ramirez
Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, Florida
Board Member Spotlight
Monic Wofford, CSP
Chief Executive Officer | President | Founder
Contagious Companies, Inc.
From fond memories to a sense of moral responsibility, one of Habitat for Humanity’s newest board members, Monica Wofford, appreciates both the joy and necessity of giving back.
Wofford recounted her earliest connections to the mission of Habitat which can be found in the walls of homes that have stood for decades. “Mind you, I must have been five or six at the time of those builds as those homes are now close to twenty years old,” says Wofford who’s grateful for the opportunity to return to Habitat in a leadership role.
The lasting impact of those early builds, the enduring nature of the structures she helped to build at that early age, exemplify the reasons she has again chosen to share her talents with Habitat. “Habitat for Humanity provides the structure that surrounds the family,” says Wofford. “Call it a house or home or dwelling, with that in place, there is greater potential for a family not to worry about the basics and to be able to focus on not only being a responsible member of a community, but on helping others.”
Wofford says that the cyclical nature of giving promoted by Habitat is what motivates her to contribute her time, resources and energy to the organization. As she puts it, “providing a family or veteran with a home to call their own, solves not only one of their greatest needs, but fulfills the needs of those who wish to give back with their hands and with service.” And with that “foundation,” Wofford believes Habitat’s homeowners are better positioned to pay-it-forward, creating exponential value as they “give or do for others in the community.”
In addition to her role with Habitat for Humanity, Wofford shares her time and expertise with The United Way, as well as the Lake County Republican Executive Committee, where she serves as Secretary. She says that her ability to work with non-profits in this capacity has ebbed and flowed with the seasonality of her own life and career and feels fortunate to now have time again to be involved with nonprofits that share her values of service to the community.
“There have been times in my life when I served on as many as five boards simultaneously. There have also been times when I have found the need to focus almost solely on building or growing my business and spending time with my family,” says Wofford who went on to note that she finds her service to the community comes from a combined sense of obligation and passion which she aptly describes as a “labor-of-love.”
The business Wofford has spent time building is the Contagious Companies, Inc. where she holds the titles of CEO, President and Founder. Wofford says she has had the privilege of professionally speaking to audiences, writing books, and training adults, and consulting leaders across various industries from healthcare and government agencies to tech and entertainment.
Danielle Stroud, Director of Development at Habitat for Humanity, says Habitat for Humanity is extremely fortunate to have added Monica Wofford to the organization. “She brings a combination of enthusiasm, experience and leadership that is extremely valuable on its own,” says Stroud. “But her ability to elevate the conversation and the talents of those around her is immeasurable for an organization with an already exceptionally strong board of directors.”
Wofford says she’s looking forward to sharing the skills she’s acquired and developed as she built and led her company and is excited to learn new skills by serving Habitat for Humanity and working closely with the other talented staff and board members that serve the organization. “Our goals as an organization are exciting and our leadership is certainly doing a masterful job in both running and growing the results of every board and team members’ efforts,” says Wofford.
“We share Monica’s sentiment that working with, and for, Habitat is both a labor-of-love and an opportunity to satisfy a moral responsibility to the communities we live and work in,” says Stroud. “We’re excited to tap into that passion and look forward to helping Monica create even more fond memories of working with Habitat for Humanity!”
By David Larrick
Construction runs deep in the blood of Cody Ives, a recent graduate from the Villages Charter High School. Since a young age, Cody has been surrounded by the art of craftsmanship, and during the last three summers, he has worked with his dad doing custom cabinets and furniture. Family has played an important role in his life thanks to his parents and sister, and of course, the family dog.
Cody has been working as an intern builder for Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter since he graduated this past May. While attending the Villages Charter School, he was enrolled in the construction academy partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter and even had the chance to help in constructing a new home. The Habitat Youth Construction Academy was actively seeking one student to come on as an intern, and with his previous track record with construction, Cody was a prime candidate for the position. To his delight, he was chosen to be a part of the newly formed academy and has proven his worth ever since; finally joining Habitat Lake-Sumter in an apprentice builder role.
Upon asking Cody what his favorite part about his new job was, he answered, “I enjoy assisting the other builders with the work and it’s great to be able to learn new skills along the way!”. Besides learning new tricks of the trade, Cody went on to emphasize how fulfilling it is to see the results of both the team and his hard work. Maybe even more impressive than his work ethic is his friendly attitude that he displays to others while on the construction site. His upbeat and radiant personality constantly keeps the team in good spirits throughout the day, which makes a lot of sense since his favorite saying is “Heck ya!”.
When Cody’s not working, his favorite activities to do in his free time are hunting, fishing, hanging out with friends, and going out on the boat. The West Palm native moved here when he was three and currently resides in Weirsdale, FL. We would like to wish Cody good luck with his future at Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter and a big thank you for the wonderful work he has done so far!
UCF Student and Volunteer
Brad Weber, EVP
Chief Lending Officer
Citizens First Bank
“Success is Built on Relationships” – a powerful statement and one of the many mantras of Brad Weber, who was recently appointed to the Lake-Sumter Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors.
Weber brings a variety of experience earned over his thirty plus years in the banking industry where he has worked in consumer, commercial and agricultural lending. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Technology from Barry University and is a graduate of the Graduate School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University.
Through his work in the banking industry, he has been involved in finance, marketing, staff development and strategic planning. Weber makes special note of the people and relationships he’s formed during his tenure as a banker. “My lending background has allowed me to work with people from all types of industries and walks of life in helping them realize their dreams,” says Weber who looks forward to seeing where his experience can best benefit Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter.
Weber’s connection with Habitat started when he first volunteered his time to help build a home sponsored by Citizens First Bank roughly five years ago and has continued as he has volunteered to help with a number of other Habitat for Humanity projects since that time. During the past five years, Weber has built more than homes for Habitat, he’s built relationships with a team that works to deliver new homes to members of our community. “I have built relationships with several staff members, and truly learned the true mission of Habitat through their actions,” notes Weber.
The Boys & Girls Club, The Boy Scouts of America, Lake Sumter State College and the local Chamber of Commerce have all been beneficiaries of Weber’s enthusiasm for volunteerism yet, true to his philanthropic spirit, Weber says it’s his career that has grown through the opportunities he’s had to serve those organizations.
He says the experience of working with Habitat has given as much to him as he has to the organization. “At this point in my life, and after having witnessed a number of families be handed the keys to their dream come true, their first home; and experienced the emotion and passion of that moment, this became my reason to serve Habitat,” says Weber.
Weber hopes to use his experience and talents to support the idea of an incubator community that could potentially create affordable housing that remains accessible for generations to come. “This community could solve several struggles such as providing affordable workforce housing, teaching families how to be a part of a community and providing opportunities for financial growth,” says Weber. It’s just an idea for now, however, it has the possibility to move into reality and thereby improve home ownership opportunities for families.”
Building communities such as this one goes back to the heart of Weber’s mantra: success is built on relationships. “Success is a community of people who can rely on each other, people who joyously and enthusiastically strive to lift each other up on a personal level, says Weber. “This feeling is not only contagious, but also exponentially raises the confidence and productivity of each of us in a community, resulting in a much higher quality of life.”
Weber’s enthusiasm for the local community also resonates at a personal level as he and his wife have lived in the area since 1996. They have been married for 30 years and have raised three children who received their education through the Lake County School System where his wife, Glenda, has been a teacher for almost 20 years.
“Bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope – these are all hallmarks of Habitat’s mission,” says Danielle Stroud, Director of Development at Habitat for Humanity. “Brad has personally and professionally embraced this mission for many years and we wholeheartedly welcome him to the Board of Directors at Habitat for Humanity!”
By David Larrick
Board Member Spotlight
Christina A. Campbell
From a young age, Christina Campbell’s mother instilled in her the importance of helping others. And that has become a priority for the local attorney who earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Florida in 2016 and still finds time to serve a number of community organizations.
Campbell has been a member of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter’s Foundation Board since 2018 and was appointed to the Affiliate Board in January 2019.
“Christina has been such a valuable asset to our organization as a member of our Foundation Board,” says Danielle Stroud, Director of Development at Habitat for Humanity. “We’re so fortunate to have the opportunity to further tap into her passion and abilities as a member of our Affiliate Board.”
In addition to her work with Habitat for Humanity, Campbell has been a member of the Junior League since 2014 and currently serves on the Community Impact Committee. She is also a member of the Villages Morning Rotary Club and the Leadership Lake County Class of 2019. While in her hometown of Lakeland, she volunteers her time with Volunteers in Service to the Elderly.
Campbell says her love of volunteering stems from the values she was exposed to as a child as well as the feeling she gets from helping others accomplish something they couldn’t have done on their own. Though she had already shown her commitment to Habitat through her service on the Foundation Board, she says that seeing first-hand the impact of the organization’s time and effort solidified her love for Habitat and its mission.
“I had the privilege of joining a team for the Global Village Trip to Honduras in June of last year,” says Campbell. “This trip was life changing – the people I met, both volunteers and home owners, became a part of my family and I will never forget the memories we made on that trip.”
“I truly believe in Habitat’s mission. Home is where you go to feel safe, where you go to re-charge, where you go to be with your family,” Campbell shared when asked why Habitat’s mission is important to her personally. “If you don’t have a place where you feel safe and secure, it is much harder to make positive choices and achieve your goals. I believe that our work helps families who want to build better lives for themselves. I also like the fact that Habitat allows for hands on volunteer work so that I can see the actual benefit of my time in the community.”
Campbell’s says her experience as an attorney has taught her how to listen to people’s needs and develop a plan to help them achieve their goals. “I genuinely enjoy helping people. I do that in my daily work, and I want to continue doing that with Habitat,” says Campbell.
With all of Campbell’s commitments, she has still found the time to lead a team for Habitat’s Women Build Event which is a national initiative to provide safe and decent homes for families in need of affordable housing. Campbell, whose team is comprised of women from the McLin Burnsed law firm where she practices as an attorney, says she “looks forward to working together as women to make a difference in the community and break some stereotypes.” Something Campbell is already doing as she gives back to community in so many ways.
“Christina has already made a tremendous impact at Habitat,” says Stroud. “She was a natural choice for our Affiliate Board and we know she’ll bring the same level of drive and dedication that she has become known for in our community.”
By David Larrick
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.
My name is Fabian. I am 23 years old and I am from Germany. Currently, I am completing a four month internship at Habitat for Humanity. I graduated last year from Phillips University of Marburg with my Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. In October I plan to return to Germany and pursue my Master’s Degree. When I am not working or at school I enjoy spending my free time playing football, meeting new friends, and traveling to new countries.
During my studies I worked as an assistant for a partially blind student, supporting her with reading and understanding exams. The job was very rewarding and I realized that I wanted to continue helping people in need. I knew my time at Habitat for Humanity would allow me to help the community and explore the United States.
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.