Over the course of the last six years, Habitat Lake-Sumter has opened its doors to interns seeking studying abroad opportunities. This summer we welcomed two interns from France, Adrien and Matthieu, to join our team. For two months they spent time learning about Habitat’s role in the community and acquiring new construction skills.
Adrien and Matthieu are from Nantes, France and are currently enrolled in the engineering program at École Centrale de Nantes. Matthieu is studying architecture and Adrien is studying civil engineering. Learning American mannerisms and culture, Florida way of life, on top of foreign construction skills and training seemed challenging, but the pair acclimated themselves almost seamlessly. The two students enjoyed their experience and learning the difference in building techniques between France and America. Learning to build a wood frame home was a very different experience for Matthieu, as France builds concrete homes. As for Adrien, building a home was completely out of his element as his training is predominantly in civil engineering and planning.
Despite the significant differences in what they were accustomed to, the two students welcomed their new surroundings and teachings with eagerness and were dedicated to learning each new task presented. Roofing as well as carpentry was a first-time experience for both Adrien and Matthieu. When asked what skills they enjoyed learning the most, Adrien admits that his favorite skill was constructing interior walls; while Matthieu preferred learning flooring.
However, it wasn’t all work and no play. The two had the chance to tour popular Florida cities such as Orlando, St. Augustine, and Miami; and even visited Manhattan, NY and toured Times Square and the museums.
Matthieu and Adrien helped tremendously in our new construction builds, furthering our impact and mission to serve our communities with decent, safe, and affordable housing.
“Being here with Habitat was very nice. Everyone was so warm and welcoming. We hope to come back and visit in the future and see the homes we helped to build.”- Matthieu & Adrien
Habitat Lake-Sumter’s Collegiate Challenge program provides year-round alternative break opportunities to college students across the United States. Ohio State University students recently joined us for a week over summer break as part of the college’s Buck-iServ program, to explore Florida and volunteer on numerous construction projects!
Join Billan from OSU, for an Instagram Takeover, while she and her fellow students volunteer on a Preservation and Repair Project in Mascotte, FL.
When students volunteer with Habitat Lake-Sumter, they ensure that every family has a safe and affordable place to call home. Access to safe, affordable housing – whether new construction or a critical home repair – can be life-changing for families, with far-reaching impact on health, education, and economic outcomes. Service volunteering can be equally transformative for students as they learn more about the complex issues surrounding affordable housing and witness their own potential for making an impact!
Thank You, OSU!
A competitive dragon boat team from The Villages, The Dragon Boat Sisters, this past week worked on their second critical home repair with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter.
The Dragon Boat Sisters have raised funds and volunteered over the course of three days to ensure the home is safe and ADA accessible for the homeowner, Mary Sterling.
When asked why this project is important, one of the team members mentioned that “we are giving a hand up to help Ms. Mary, she needs this ramp for her mobility in life and we’re putting that in plus freshening her home with a coat of paint and landscaping.”
The project scope included installing new shutters, rebuilding entry-way stairs and building a 45-foot aluminum wheelchair ramp to enable ease of access into the home. Painting and landscaping for the exterior of the home will be the finishing touches of the project.
Sterling said that it feels amazing to have her house repaired. She has been on the wait list for two years so this can happen, and she feels “so blessed and happy” to finally have this opportunity.
“Since Publix finished painting our house, so many of our neighbors and friends have stopped by admiring our home. They love how the blue just makes the home pop out. They really did a great job and we’re so happy!”– Jimmie
Publix Super Markets Charities awards Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter with a $35,000 grant in support of preservation and critical home repairs. As a lead sponsor since 2015, Publix Super Markets Charities has annually contributed $35,000 to Habitat’s Preservation and Repair program and has improved the lives of more than 200 families in Lake and Sumter Counties.
Preservation & Repair has become a vital way Habitat Lake-Sumter addresses the affordable housing need in our community, annually providing access to home repairs and critical improvements for 45 families and individuals. Because of Publix Super Markets Charities support, we’ve increased the number of families served for a total of 67 projects completed this year!
Over the course of two days, Publix team members from 5 districts came together to volunteer on a critical home repair project in Mt. Dora sponsored by Publix. Not only does Publix Super Markets Charities provide a financial investment in the community, but their team members dedicate hours of volunteer time to see the projects successfully completed.
Jimmie and Marian have lived in their home for almost 40 years. When the Banner’s home began falling into disrepair, Jimmie tried his best to manage the repairs on his own. With a background in carpentry, he managed to do some repairs on his own such as replacing the bathroom sink, kitchen cabinets, and some drywall repair. However, as an elder adult and current fixed income, these tasks proved to be too demanding both financially and physically with his health complications. Jimmie and his wife, Marian are thankful that they were referred to Habitat Lake-Sumter and are very grateful for the assistance provided by Publix Super Markets Charities and their local staff in repairing and beautifying their home. In addition to a new roof and windows, the Banners received critical interior renovations, including a new roof and HVAC system, flooring throughout the home, counter tops, and much needed bathroom fixtures. With the help of the dedicated Publix team, the Banners’ home also received a fresh, vibrant blue exterior painting chosen by Marian.
We are grateful for the longstanding support Publix Super Markets Charities has shown the Preservation and Repair program, thank you for partnering with us to build strength, stability, and independence for families in our community!
While some students spend spring break at the beach, a group from Frewsburg will be spending their time helping Habitat for Humanity.
Jennifer Swanson, a technology teacher at Frewsburg High School, and six members of the Structural Integrity Club will be traveling to Eustis, Fla., to help with various Habitat for Humanity projects over the week. The group is focused on using architectural and engineering skills learned in technology class. Students — including Jacob Constantino, Noah Collins, Hannah Forbes, Hannah Eckert and Brianna Rosequist and Katelyn Bean — will take off this Sunday, and will spend the week working on their assigned projects.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that helps provide affordable housing all across the world. Many projects include building homes for those in need, and will often include the homeowners themselves in building the homes.
The trip was supposed to take place in 2020, but due to the pandemic, it was postponed until this year.
“We were all set to go,” Swanson said. “We were supposed to leave in April that year, and everything shut down the month before.”
“During this alternative spring break experience, students will work with the local Habitat for Humanity organization,” Swanson said. “Projects for these opportunities vary depending on the current projects. Our group is currently slated to complete two projects that are in progress with some paint prep and painting, as well as outdoor cleanup.”
Swanson added that the facility the students will visit has several projects at this time. Students will be helping “wrap up” several of the projects.
“We’ve got some that are under 18, so there are certain jobs they can’t do; they can’t work with power tools if they’re under 18,” she said. “We’re doing some more renovation or restoration-type things, so we’ll be doing some cleanups, some painting, some pressure washing and scraping.”
Students who participate in the trip generally have to be students currently in Swanson’s technology class.
“It’s the students who are generally in my classes because they should be going through the program so that they know they have some knowledge of the things that they’re doing,” she said. “Other than that, they have first priority in being able to go because there’s limited space because we don’t take a bus — we’re flying down. The spots are open to the students I have in class first and then it would be open beyond that.”
Swanson commended her students on also being in good academic standing.
“I think all the students that are going on this trip are in the National Honor Society,” she said. “It’s a really good group of students who are going.”
As a lifelong resident of Lake County and graduate of Tavares High School and Lake Sumter Community College, Jordan Hawkins is a true local. Married to wife, Jenna, and raising three sons, together they are continuing the tradition of making Lake County their hometown.
Jordan currently resides in Umatilla, FL and has been employed by the United Southern Bank for the past 16 years, working in their commercial lending department.
He has been on the Habitat Lake-Sumter Board for almost one year and believes his banking and financial experience help provide insight to the Board when making financial decisions.
“Habitat has done a great job helping people obtain homes. In today’s market, where prices are rising rapidly, incomes often do not afford the opportunity to save enough money for a down payment while paying for rent and other necessities. Habitat clearly makes homes much more affordable for many hard working people”
Jordan has also been very impressed by the community out-reach programs undertaken by Habitat Lake-Sumter. Of particular interest is the Preservation and Repair program. As a part of this program, Jordan participated in the Umatilla Block Party as a community advocate. He, along with other Habitat staff members, identified homes in Umatilla in need of repair and/or maintenance. Jordan said, “Homeowners were thrilled with the offer of help to do those things that they could no longer do for themselves.”
A second project Jordan got involved in was Habitat Lake-Sumter’s annual playhouse build event, Jingle Build-Off. United Southern Bank was one of many corporate sponsors involved in building playhouses for kids. Local families had the opportunity to apply for playhouses and in their application provided ideas that would appeal to their kids and steer creative construction plans. Jordan, together with another volunteer, led a team of Umatilla High School students in the construction of a playhouse with a Jurassic Park theme. “Seeing the enthusiasm from the kids when presented with the completed project was awesome. Imagine a playhouse with a dinosaur cracking through the roof! The kids were so excited!”
Jordan is pleased to be a part of the Habitat Lake-Sumter Board and providing hands-on experience to help so many local families. He is very thankful for this opportunity and Habitat Lake-Sumter is grateful for his enthusiasm and expertise.
Written By: Kevin Vogt
Florida Paints is partnering with Habitat Lake-Sumter’s Preservation and Repair program through community events, “Spruce up the Block” parties.
Started in 2015, Habitat Lake-Sumter’s Preservation and Repair program works to preserve the existing affordable housing stock, improve the safety and accessibility of the homes through exterior repairs, and revitalize low-income neighborhoods and community spaces. As part of Habitat’s Preservation and Repair program, “Spruce of the Block” parties were introduced as community-focused initiatives that provide local neighborhoods with clean-up, landscaping, and fresh painting.
This Spring, Florida Paints became the lead sponsor of multiple block parties for neighborhoods in South Lake, Umatilla, Leesburg, and Mount Dora – donating over 200 gallons of paint! We are grateful to collaborate with community investors like Florida Paints, who are dedicated to uplifting their neighbors and their community.
Florida Paints is a second-generation, family-owned paint company. It all started with Color Wheel in 1960 and continues with Florida Paints today. With a 60-year legacy of manufacturing over 75 million gallons of paint, the Strube family knows the paint business better than anyone in Florida. And are proud to have a team of the most dedicated, experienced, and knowledgeable paint people in the industry.
Thanks to our friends at Florida Paints, cadets from Massachusetts Maritime Academy volunteered during Habitat Lake-Sumter’s community events, “Spruce up the Block” parties for four weeks.
So what can happen in four weeks? Check it out!
Thank you, Florida Paints! Because of your support, volunteers helped to “Paint a Brighter Day” for families and communities across Lake County, serving more than 40 families and 3 faith-based community centers.
Time to get the paint brushes out, as Florida Paints is partnering with Habitat Lake-Sumter’s Preservation and Repair program through community events, “Spruce up the Block” parties to be hosted Feb. 1-11, according to a news release.
Habitat Lake-Sumter’s Preservation and Repair program works to preserve the existing affordable housing stock, improve the safety and accessibility of the homes through exterior repairs, and revitalize low-income neighborhoods and community spaces. Block Parties are community focused initiatives that provide local neighborhoods with clean-up, landscaping, and fresh painting.
Thanks to Florida Paints’ support, Habitat Lake-Sumter, community leaders, and volunteers will help to “Paint a Brighter Day” for families and communities across Lake County, FL.
“Spruce up the Block” parties are happening throughout South Lake, Umatilla, and Mount Dora and will serve more than 40 families and three faith-based community centers. The painting parties begin Tuesday, Feb. 1, and will run 8 a.m. to noon through Feb. 11.
For any general public or media interested in joining us onsite, contact Lacie Himes, development director, at Habitat, for the location details. She can be reached at 352-396-6763 or Lacie@HabitatLS.org
Since the Collegiate Challenge program began in the late 1980s, more than 260,000 students have committed to building safe and affordable homes across the United States. Collegiate Challenge offers student volunteers a unique learning experience where they learn not only construction skills, but also about the importance of housing. Unfortunately, this program is currently on hiatus due to the corona virus, but we look forward to having Collegiate Challenge students back on our construction sites soon!
With Spring Break right around the corner, Collegiate Challenge Alumni, Adithya shared his experiences volunteering with Habitat Lake-Sumter. Adithya Ramaswami is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University majoring in Aerospace Engineering and will be graduating in May 2023. It was through the university’s Buck-I-SERV program that he first learned about Habitat for Humanity and was then able to volunteer for Habitat Lake-Sumter. The opportunity to broaden his understanding of the challenges people face and give back to the community in a meaningful way, all contributed to Adithya’s decision to participate. Adithya was a trip leader for two trips, one in the Winter of 2019 and again in the Spring of 2020
During the first trip his team worked on the construction and framing of a new home and enjoyed the experience so much that he returned the following year to work in the ReStore, paint a house nearing completion and put in fencing on a newly acquired property. Not only did he learn new construction skills and the use of power tools but seeing the progress at the end of each day and knowing that he was making a difference in the lives of others was extremely rewarding. Adithya was impressed by the helpfulness, supportiveness, and patience of the staff, in teaching the skills needed to be successful. “It was clear,” Adithya said “that they loved the work they do and are passionate about Habitat’s mission and goals. It was truly inspiring.”
The students stayed at the Habitat Lake-Sumter service facility in Eustis where the accommodations, per Adithya, “were exceptional”. The kitchen provided the chance to bring in food to cook as an option to eating out. There were also opportunities to explore central Florida after volunteer hours were over. Disney Springs, the beach, kayaking, volleyball and watching a Space X launch were some of the activities that they enjoyed. The Director of Volunteer Services, Carlos Beron, was incredibly helpful and resourceful in making sure the team had a successful and enjoyable week.
The opportunity to understand the issues around affordable and decent housing helped Adithya to build stronger and deeper connections within the community. Volunteering helped him to understand the challenges our communities face and enabled him to help address them and make a positive difference. It was a personal journey of self-growth. As Adithya said, “Volunteering can help start a conversation around social justice and build a bridge of kindness and create an opportunity to make a positive impact. The work you do is meaningful if you push yourself to connect with what you are doing. You gain a sense of responsibility to continue in that civic engagement and community service throughout the rest of your life.”
By Kevin Vogt – Volunteer Writer
Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter offers a ‘hand-up’ approach to families in the community, encouraging ownership of the home building and buying process from the beginning. Sweat Equity is an example of that.
The “Sweat Equity” program is designed to provide future homeowners the opportunity to participate in the investment of homes, either their own or someone else’s, and their community. Sweat equity is not a financial payment but rather an opportunity to work alongside volunteers who give their time to bring to life the dream of homeownership. Sweat equity can take on many forms; from construction or home preservation and repair, to working in Habitat’s ReStores, and participating in special events. In addition, homeowner education classes provide instruction on topics like mortgage and insurance that count towards the required 200 hours of sweat equity for future homeowners. This cooperative approach, whereby all of us are working together, ensures homeowners can achieve the strength, stability, and independence they need to build a better future for themselves and their families.
When we asked future homeowners about the sweat equity program, “It’s a Blessing,” was heard over and over. A blessing not just because they were receiving support, but because they found opportunities to pay it forward through Habitat’s structured outreach programs in which they can participate. And that’s one of many things they liked, the varied opportunities that were provided. Some examples that might be unexpected included events like Jingle Build-Off, where Habitat homeowners joined sponsors in building playhouses for children in the community.
The varied opportunities address a potential roadblock. Families partnered with Habitat Lake-Sumter have work, school, and family obligations. They need to complete their 200 hours of sweat equity within a very demanding schedule. Because many sweat equity opportunities can be accommodated to fit around busy schedules, it becomes easier for them to participate.
Four future Habitat families met when they were volunteering on a home repair project for the Rosas family. Habitat Lake-Sumter not only builds new homes but provides preservation and repair services to keep homes safe.
And our partner families give high marks for the sweat equity program. All agreed it provides a sense of commitment.
It instills a sense of appreciation, builds confidence and a sense of community. Working on projects alongside volunteers builds respect for one another and knowledge that Habitat homeowners carry with them into the future. Working side by side, there is a realization that despite different backgrounds and experiences, everyone has come together for the common good.
Habitat Lake-Sumter partners with families to walk side by side as they achieve the dream of owning a home and as our future homeowners have said over and over “It’s A Blessing!”
Kevin Voght, volunteer writer
Hi, I’m Laurie Bryant and I have been the Corporate and Community Training Coordinator at Lake Technical College for about 2 ½ years. I have the opportunity to attend community events to represent Lake Technical College and to provide summer camps for the youth in our community. I am a member of Leadership Lake Board of Regents and a Board Member for iBuild Central Florida. I’m married to AJ Bryant and have a son, Román Newkirk, who will be graduating from high school in May.
Needless to say, my schedule keeps me busy but last year I took a little time to participate in Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter’s Women Build! I enjoy friendly competition so when I heard that anyone who raised $1,000 would join an elite group of women (The Sisterhood of the Pink Hard Hats) and receive a personalized hard hat, I knew I had to do it—and my whole family joined in!
I had an amazing team for Women Build named The HammerKnockers. Our team, consisting of 9 women and 2 gents, raised $3,743.09 and worked on a new home construction site in Eustis on two separate dates. Several team members earned pink hammers and hard hats and were proud to accept those honors at the Pre-Build Celebration and use them during the build!
It was very hot the day of our build, but we were hyped-up and ready to work! I think a few of us were a little disappointed when the next group came and we had to stop building for the day. The HammerKnockers built and erected the first 2 walls on the house, and we loved every minute of it!
Team members have been asking about joining the team again, so that makes me even more excited about participating this year than last year, if that’s even possible! I’m grateful to my returning team members and the new members who will join us for Women Build 2020.
This past November, I had the honor of speaking at the key ceremony for the Lozada-Santiago family and to present the family with a Bible and took kit.
I let the family know that we put a lot of love into our portion of the build and told them about the kind, positive, and uplifting words we wrote on the framing at the front of the house. After the ceremony we were able to tour the home and see the final product. The HammerKnockers that were present felt so proud and happy knowing that we had something to do with providing a home for someone.
Women Build is such a fulfilling event that I encourage everyone who can to participate. Participation could be forming a team, being a team member, or making a donation. There are so many ways to participate, and the end result is that you help someone own a home who otherwise may not be able to be a homeowner, if not for Habitat for Humanity and the efforts of Women Build.
I have done a lot of community service for the past 20+ years and have helped so many people, but I’ve never had the opportunity to provide a home for anyone! How awesome is that?!
If you are not able to form your own team or would like to make a donation, please feel free to work with The HammerKnockers!
Interested in Women Build? Contact Lacie at (352) 483-0434 x 146 or Lacie@HabitatLS.org
Have you visited Habitat’s ReStore in Eustis lately? If you have, you might have noticed some incredible improvements or upgrades, and maybe even seen the man behind them: Don Williams.
Don Williams is a problem solver who values efficiency, ingenuity, and independence in his work life. Since a young age, Don has always enjoyed building things, as a graduate from Syracuse University in the field of engineering, he dedicated the majority of his life constructing solutions to everyday problems. After obtaining his degree, Don served eight years in the United States Air Force; spending 4 of those years oversees and 4 years stateside, Don was stationed at the RAF Wethersfield, England Air Force Base, and in Alexandria, LA. After completing active duty, Don worked for the National Guard and later the Department of Energy, where he was able to put his love for engineering to optimal use. Don retired in 2002 and decided to enjoy some of his hobbies with his free-time, like fishing.
But retirement and hobbies left Don wanting more, “full-time fishing was unfulfilling,” Don says, as he recalls an intuitive calling to do something more with his retirement.
Being a little unsure what to do next, Don decided to try community service, he started volunteering at Lake Cares Food Pantry and eventually crossed paths with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. Don began volunteering with Habitat Lake-Sumter on June 30th, 2018 and found he could put his background in engineering to use. During his time with Habitat, Don has been a huge contributor to the renovation of the Eustis ReStore (even planting flowers which are currently in bloom!); some of his improvements include installing new flooring, painting, constructing new shelves, and rebuilding the framework in the buildings. Thanks to Don’s expertise, the ReStore has been able to add more space for inventory and displays, “I just love to work, I’ve always enjoyed every job I’ve had,” explains Don.
Since 2018, Don has volunteered MORE THAN 2,000 HOURS working with Habitat Lake-Sumter, whether on a build site, the Eustis ReStore or as an office volunteer!
So we had to ask him, “Don, what makes you volunteer so much?”
Don says there are “endless opportunities for improving little things that go unnoticed,” he likes to think of a finished project catching people’s eye and the thought “who did that?” running through their mind.
Don is passionate about volunteering because it has allowed him to utilize his skills, keep his mind sharp, and continue to produce the work he enjoys doing so much.
In December, Don was presented with a Community Service Award by the Rotary of the Villages Noon, not only for the work he does with Habitat Lake-Sumter but also for his continued involvement with Lake Cares Food Pantry.
Don Williams is a one-of-a kind person and an incredible volunteer. We can’t thank Don enough for the hard work, time, and dedication he invests in Habitat Lake-Sumter every single week!
If you’re interested in volunteering and becoming part of our Hometown Habitat Family contact Carlos at (352) 483-0434 x 119 or Carlos@HabitatLS.org
It was just another day at Lake Sumter State College. Arriving on time to my 11am Philosophy class every Tuesday and Thursday morning had become a ritual for me from the months prior. Usually class would start with a lecture on some philosopher like Rene Descartes or Thomas Hobbes and lead into discussion, but this morning was different. It turned out that a job fair was being held at the center of campus and my professor instructed my classmates and I to leave class, enter the courtyard, and search for jobs.
Although I was employed at the time, it was lacking the sort of experience I was looking for. I wanted to be somewhere that I could use my skills in a practical sense, towards something that I wanted my career to look like. So, my search began. I made it my goal that before leaving the courtyard that day I would speak to each individual to see what they were looking for and in doing so, I hoped to find what I was looking for. There were all kinds of stands, Waffle House, H&R Block, you name it. But upon speaking with the representatives at each stand, one stuck out. One whose mission statement meant something. One that would uplift my community. That one was Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter.
This was my first-time meeting Shari, the Marketing and Communications Coordinator with Habitat Lake-Sumter; she was searching for an intern and that was precisely the opportunity I was looking for. So, we spoke, she handed me all of the information I needed to submit my application, and bam! A few weeks later I was deemed the Marketing and Communications intern under Mrs. Shari McCray. This was, and still is, a very exciting time for me. I have been able to take part in so many projects. I’ve done work to produce a new event, Jingle Build-Off, interviewed all sorts of people, created videos, wrote articles, took photos, but most of all I’ve learned something new each and every day I’ve spent working with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter.
Today, I continue to strive towards being as helpful as I can to everyone in the office, as well as the volunteers and homeowners that I see so often. The experience and knowledge I have gained through this internship is something that I am truly grateful for, so much that I will always remember my time here with Habitat Lake-Sumter.
Looking back, the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had continue to occur regularly when I get to hear wonderful stories from our volunteers with all different backgrounds and experiences. Their stories teach me something about life, and that is, no matter who you are or what you do, the central idea that can bring us all together: the importance of giving to others. So whether you’re a volunteer, community partner, or future homeowner with Habitat reading this, I hope that one day I can meet you and hear your story as well.
Maybe you’ve heard this one before, “December is the season of giving!”
But after sharing in the thanksgiving season with friends and family, we start to turn our gratitude outwards. There are many ways to give; time and money, talent and resources; and one of the most meaningful ways to give during this time of year is volunteering!
We are so grateful for the many volunteers who partner with Habitat Lake-Sumter during the holiday season and throughout the year. If you’re thinking about giving back to your community, now is a good time to meet Pamela and hear why she volunteers with us.
Pamela Chase is a volunteer at heart and is one of many committed volunteers based out of our Eustis ReStore. Pamela is committed to making a contribution to the community on a weekly basis.
Initially getting involved through the help of her partner who works at Habitat’s Eustis Restore, Pamela has been volunteering her time for about two months. Volunteering at the Eustis ReStore two to three times a week, Pamela’s main duty is sorting and organizing various types of clothing and donations brought in by the community.
Prior to volunteering with Habitat Lake-Sumter, Pamela often volunteered with organizations and shelters whose focus was animal cruelty prevention. Here, Pamela was able to work with dogs, walking them, showering them with affection, and preparing them for adoption. Unfortunately, as the physical demands of caring for animals became too much, Pamela had to step down from her responsibilities. Pamela has handled physical setbacks and health concerns but that has not held her back from taking the time to volunteer.
Here at Habitat’s Restore, Pamela is once again able to donate her time and share her commitment to community. When asked why she volunteers, Pamela says “The people at the Eustis Restore are fantastic, fun to work with, and volunteering in general is a great way to get out of the house. It really helps to boost my self-esteem to be able to get out and make a difference.”
Interested in volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter? Contact our Director of Volunteer Services, Carlos, at (352) 483-0434 x 119 or Carlos@HabitatLS.org
The Villages Habitat Club
Kevin Tucker has been a man of many trades throughout his life, but none have held on to his interest more than managing and rehabbing real estate. Now, the transplant from New York plans to bring his passion for property management to the Lake-Sumter chapter of Habitat for Humanity by starting a club in his adopted hometown, The Villages, FL.
Tucker, a part-time motorcycle enthusiast, has worked on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, drove a taxi, worked as a driving instructor and owned a laundromat, a dog wash and a large records storage company, all before venturing into the world of investment property while still in New York. There, he owned several properties which he enjoyed updating and where he did his own repairs. “I did everything I could myself, except the HVAC, which I contracted out,” says Tucker who also noted that he comes from a family full of roofers, siding hangers and construction workers.
Working on his businesses and his rental properties, coupled with his do-it-yourself attitude, honed a skill set that he says made Habitat for Humanity a natural fit. “When I was winding down my career in record-storage, I had more time for my rental properties and more time to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity,” says Tucker.
Tucker worked with a local chapter of Habitat in New York and picked up where he left off with his volunteerism when he moved to Florida. He noticed the potential right away, with more than 100,000 retirees in his new hometown, many of which would have skills or interest in helping out at Habitat, but he also noticed something peculiar.
“I’d run into people from the Villages at every Habitat build or function I attended,” says Tucker. “I’d see them once or twice and then they’d disappear.” Tucker believes that shows there’s plenty of interest among his fellow Villagers but, without a structure or format to keep them engaged, they likely become disconnected once their build or volunteer opportunity ends. Tucker plans to create that engagement with the Habitat Club and he’s already seen plenty of interest.
“I have about 40 people who’ve expressed interest in joining the club, just through word of mouth,” says Tucker who also noted that those joining don’t necessarily have or need a construction or trade background.
Tucker says they’ve already got their first assignment, once the club is up and running. “We’ll be assessing a couple of the Habitat Re-Stores to see how we can refresh them and update some of the landscaping.” The Villages Habitat Club will also be cutting playhouse materials for a new event, “Jingle Build-Off” in December.
Ultimately, he’d like to see the club tasked with their own build and have the club’s name attached to a house they complete in one of the surrounding communities. Until then Tucker says the club members will be available to Habitat in any way that benefits the organization and engages the club’s members.
If you are interested in learning more about The Villages Habitat Club, you’re encouraged to contact the club at VillagersHabitat@aol.com. Their first meeting will be held at the Sea Breeze Recreation Center at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, October 9th and Tucker says anyone interested is welcome to attend.
“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
From Kyle, a Banker of three years and Judy, approaching her forty-second year as a Teller, to Lake-Sumter District Manager, Randy; the volunteers from Wells Fargo span age, careers, and experiences –yet they have one important thing in common: Giving Back.
Twenty-one volunteers from Wells Fargo worked at two Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter build sites on Saturday, April 27th. Spread between the home being built in Oxford and another in Eustis, in one day alone, Wells Fargo volunteers painted, caulked, and contributed over 84 volunteer hours and donated $15,000 to Habitat’s home ownership program.
Annually, Wells Fargo hosts a statewide “Day of Service,” a day where team members are encouraged to engage in service projects by volunteering in their communities. Nationwide, “Day of Service” has generated over 2 million hours in volunteered time, awarded over $500,000 in grants to non-profits where team members volunteer; and ultimately, has created an environment where ‘community giving’ is embedded in the culture and attitude of Wells Fargo.
Branch Manager, Rane, says this year’s “Day of Service” is helping to build seven homes in Central Florida and thirty homes statewide, “In the past we’ve been able to partner with Habitat and it’s our go-to. Everybody loves helping to build a home.” Rane also says the commitment to their visions, values, and goals for community involvement is what led her to working with Wells Fargo.
One of Wells Fargo’s goals is “creating solutions for stronger, more resilient communities,” and this goal manifests itself through first time home buyer programs, NeighborhoodLIFT, and partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter.
District Manager, Randy, has worked for Wells Fargo for ten years and has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for the past five years; between painting, roofing, and putting up siding with Habitat and working alongside his father who is a general contractor, Randy has done it all when it comes to building a home.
However, working with his fellow team members provides more than volunteer hours. Randy says it cultivates purpose and community when they work together outside of the usual four walls; he finds that volunteering creates a different kind of bond that “translates into better partnerships and teamwork in the business.”
On why he volunteers personally, Randy says his goal is to leave things better, “Living and working in the community, I like to make it a better place. It gives me that sense of giving back and really helping families and individuals that need our support.”
Proving that the community involvement and camaraderie of Wells Fargo thrives because of the team members themselves, “I have the best team ever and we love being a part of it!” Randy shouts loud enough for every volunteer to hear.
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.
Whether it’s searching for jewelry, finding a new car, or – in our case – recruiting volunteers, sometimes you find one that truly stands out. In our case, this came in the form of Martha Cole, a retiree and well-tenured Habitat volunteer. Her background in volunteering is extensive and Habitat has usually been the focus of it all. After moving to Lake County, she wasted no time in getting engaged with our efforts and has proven to be a hugely valuable addition to our team.
With National Women Build Week presenting a large amount of work and volunteer groups, we decided we’d need a Crew Leader to help manage the workforce. We asked Martha to take that role and she was key to making that week a success. Now that we’re entering summer and work is slowing down, we wanted to hear from her about how her experience as a Crew Leader was, her thoughts on Women Build as a whole, and what the story is behind one of our favorite volunteers!
- You were excited to be involved in National Women Build Week. What do you think about the event itself?
I think it’s a great concept and I’m grateful to Lowe’s for sponsoring it. It’s a super way to get new volunteers, and the resultant publicity builds public awareness. What’s not to like?!?
- What did you enjoy most about being a Team Leader for Women Build?
Well, due to my advanced age, it’s kind of fun to have a platform from which to be able to inspire women to realize they can do a lot of things they never thought they could, and that age is not necessarily a deterrent. One of my favorite sayings is: “Age is an attitude”. At the end of the day, I tell them to take a good look at what they have just accomplished, and to be proud of having made a difference.
- When did you first get involved with Habitat for Humanity – not our affiliate, but Habitat in general?
My first involvement with Habitat was in 1992. I wasn’t even aware of Habitat for Humanity until a Habitat volunteer addressed the congregation at my church in Naples, FL one Sunday, explaining the concept and telling of the need for volunteer workers. It sounded right up my alley, so I started volunteering and fell in love with the mission, the work, my co-workers, and the whole concept. That was 26 years ago and I’ve done hands-on building one or two days a week ever since…and loved every minute of it. When we decided to move to The Villages, the hardest part for me was leaving my Habitat friends in Collier County, and the first question I asked our realtor in The Villages was whether there was a Habitat chapter here. That was last January, and as soon as I got the boxes all unpacked, I began volunteering at Habitat-LS’s Veteran’s Village site in Umatilla two days a week.
- What’s one of your favorite experiences or build sites? After building 1900 houses more or less the same [in Collier County], a fun experience was to come to the Veterans’ Village where the houses are built so differently, and learn all the new skills of building (vinyl planking floors instead of 12” vinyl tile squares; metal roofs instead of asphalt shingles; cement board siding instead of vinyl siding, etc).
- We hear you’re planning on participating in a Global Village trip this year! Where are you going, and what excites you the most about the trip?
In late October I’m going to El Salvador for a week with my old chapter to build two houses in the area of Ciudad Arce, about 15 miles northwest of San Salvador, the capital. I’ve never built anywhere outside of Florida and I’m really looking forward to the experience. I have no idea what sort of houses we’ll build, but I’m excited to meet and work with the local families who will be the recipients of the houses. Having been fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling, I am struck over and over again how much people are alike all over the world. We all want to be able to provide our families with a decent place to live, and it thrills me to be able to help people achieve this.
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.
Discipline, Knowledge, Leadership. This is the motto of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and for four weeks their students put those words into action.
Beginning January 16, groups of 40 students from MMA cycled through each week. They spent their weeks on Habitat job sites, working with our staff to make significant progress across the board. The students come from varied backgrounds but have similar goals at the Academy; despite the differences, all were looking forward to the team-building their time here would develop. Their academic plans spanned multiple subjects: emergency management, engineering, international business, and more. Many said the lessons in communication and teamwork learned on-site would prove invaluable moving forward. Maritime students that worked with Habitat during this time were pulling double-duty; in addition to their time on-site, they also continued studying when not actively working.
The students attending under this program began work on the Veterans Village last year, and this year’s attendees were eager to pick up where they left off. We put most of the cadets to work on the Village; the rest were taken to Preservation and Repair projects. A special event happened for this group as well, assisting the Clermont Police Department in painting a large community of duplexes. This created a strong level of community involvement, from officers to homeowners to businesses, and helped inspire us to begin our neighborhood-focused initiative.
The construction teams for Habitat for Humanity of Lake Sumter know how fortunate they are. These passionate and hard-working students show up to help, year after year, and it’s a major boost to productivity. The amount of progress made would not be possible without them, and we hope we provided some valuable experience in return.
Thanks, cadets! Same time next year?
India. Portugal. Thailand. Korea. Africa. Haiti. Umatilla? You name it, and chances are the Friend’s Build team has not only been there, but built there too.
While we’re far from an exotic jungle or mountainous village, the Habitat for Humanity Friend’s Build team stops by every year and gives their time, putting in many hours towards our home builds. These passionate volunteers – who refer to themselves as the ‘Motley Crew’ – have been a consistent presence for us for the last four years. This reliability is a major boost, both for productivity and our construction crew’s morale! The Motley Crew brings quite a bit of experience with them, allowing our usual site supervisor to finally take a breath and temporarily yield the reigns to equally capable hands.
The mission of the Friend’s Build and Motley Crew is to travel the country – and often the world – to help serve as many communities as they can. The list of places they’ve been is just as diverse as their backgrounds, hailing from several states and professions. Habitat for Humanity may provide the vision and resources, but the dedication of groups like theirs is what truly gets the job done. Countless affiliates around the globe have benefited from their tireless pursuit of service, and Habitat of Lake Sumter is lucky to be included among them.
What is a Team Build?
Exactly what it sounds like! A group of people from a company, church, or club who want to get together to work with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter on a local housing project.
Benefits of Partnering
- Get to know your employees, club, or congregation members on a more personal level.
- Assist in projects that provide a better future for other individuals.
- Provide a deeper connection to the area around you.
- Create a more stable environment for those in need.
- Share an experience that you can take back to the office, club, or church.
- Co-brand your company, club, or church with Habitat – Let us assist in getting your name out in the community.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Members from Garney Construction joined us for a Team Building day in support of our Veterans Village. Team Builds are a great way to support the community, promote team moral, and gain exposure for your company or club. Through Garney’s Team Build they made a financial investment as well as a physical investment, through hands on volunteering to rally together to support our Veteran families and supply them with a beautiful place to call home. A big thanks to our partners at Garney Construction!
Our relationship with water didn’t just happen. It’s been built project by project for more than half a century. As we’ve made the water flow, people across the country have come to depend on us for quality, integrity and the customer satisfaction that comes from getting more than your money’s worth. We are one of the nation’s leading water and wastewater contractors because we deliver more than water. We deliver excellence.
Garney. Advancing Water.
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.
At twenty years of age, what does the strong, independent woman look like today in America? Is she well spoken and hard working? Does she desire unique experiences and the ability to give back to her community? Well, Monica Couture, a young woman from Lake County has shown to be all of these things. And Habitat for Humanity has just been one pit stop on her way to changing the world, one project at a time.
Bob and Doris Meyer have been volunteering with Habitat for over 20 years, and have made some incredible contributions to the organization, touching the lives of many throughout their journey. Married for 43 years, the Meyer’s have taken their passion of constructing homes to every Habitat build, and are a testament to the dedication of our volunteers that constitute the success of Habitat.
The Meyer’s have called Florida their shared home for years, but they maintain a swift schedule traveling the world working on builds for Habitat. From Thailand, South Africa, to the United Kingdom, they have worked with over 30 affiliates in about 15 of the U.S. States. How did they decide that Habitat was for them?
The Villages Home Decorating Club is a social club comprised of over 650 residents living in The Villages who love learning, creating and sharing home decorating ideas and activities.
In 2013, the club decided to put their expertise into action and partnered with Habitat of Lake Sumter on their first outreach project, furnishing a home for a Vietnam Veteran in Wildwood.
Since then the club has sponsored an additional three families in Lady Lake and one in Fruitland Park (with a babies room!…so fun!), providing each one of them a unique and beautifully furnished home prior to their move in date. The club is looking forward to partnering with another family in Wildwood later this year.
Our good friends from Massachusetts Maritime Academy sent us this video of their recent trip with Habitat…
On Saturday, February 4th board members, executives, and staff of United Southern Bank were onsite at the Veterans Village to volunteer. United Southern Bank has been a longstanding partner of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter and their vision of providing affordable housing to local Veterans.
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.
Five college students traveled from France to Lake County to spend July through early September serving as volunteers for Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. The Domestic Global Village, a European-style hostel in Eustis, became their “home away from home.”
The restoration of this home means more to us than you will ever know. The structure is more than 60 years old, built by hand by our father. We grew up with love, family and faith in that home. It is more than a house, it is our parents legacy.
No words can ever express how great we feel because of your unselfish and tireless efforts.
– Karen D. Bennett, Dorothy Harris & Thomas Davis
In August our team had the opportunity to partner with Home Depot for a critical preservation and repair project.
Thomas Davis lives in Coleman, FL in a home that had been in the family for over 60 years. This childhood home was a safe space that he cherished dearly – but he needed some help bringing it back to life. Considering his options, he filled out an application to take advantage of Habitat’s repair program. After the Habitat team met with Thomas and visited his home, we started work on preparing to approve his application – we joined forces with Team Depot as the sponsor and volunteer crew for the project to allow us to provide the funding and hands on labor needed to perform the job.
We asked Christie, a new volunteer with us, to share a bit about herself and why she chooses to give back at Habitat of Lake Sumter. Here is what she had for us…
What do you do for Habitat?
I help out with the Development department – anything in the realm of donor relations, writing, or the donor database. Lately, I have produced content for press releases, future newsletters and some correspondence letters with donors and other volunteers.
Why do you volunteer?
I am new to Lake county and I wanted to give back to the community in any way possible. Volunteering gives me the opportunity to
work on skills for my personal career, while also helping an organization that does amazing work – it’s a wonderful opportunity.
What is your favorite component about Habitat?
On Sept. 19, 14 employees from various branches of Wells Fargo Bank throughout the county rolled up their sleeves and started work on a new Habitat home for a family in Fruitland Park. Soon to be homeowners, Lovely and Jethro came out to greet and thank the volunteers as well as work alongside them.
To kick off the work day, Lake-Sumter District Manager of Wells Fargo Bryan Cornell presented a check for $10,000 on behalf of the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation to assist in funding the home.
“We couldn’t be more excited to have Wells Fargo as a sponsor of this home. Without committed volunteers and community partners such as Wells we wouldn’t be able to achieve our mission of providing affordable housing,” said Kent Adcock, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, Florida.