The morning of November 22nd, 2019 marked the dedication of the first Habitat house completed by The Inmate Construction Academy. A crowd of family members, inmates, and others from the community gathered to celebrate the dedication of the Santiago-Lozada family and their new home. As Sheriff Grinnell handed the key to their home, sweet tears of joy fell as the crowd’s applause filled the air. This was a very special moment for the Santiago-Lozado family and all who were involved in its creation. The completion of this home also marks the close to the first year of the Inmate Construction Academy.
Back in 2017, when Hurricane Marie struck the island of Puerto Rico, the Santiago-Lozada family was one of many who lost their homes. Two years later, the Santiago-Lozada’s have been given a fresh start; a new home, one where their young son can grow up and they can begin to re-build their lives. In closing this first chapter to the Inmate Construction Academy, the program’s goal was to mirror the fresh beginning given to the new homeowners and symbolize a chance for inmates from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to begin re-building their lives as well.
One of the things that makes this home so special, aside from the journey of the homeowner, is the hardworking people who volunteered their time to make it happen. The majority of this home’s construction, and the record time in which it was built, is an accreditation to the Inmate Construction Academy; a partnership between Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, and community support. Under the direction of Construction Leader, Ernie Burley, and Master Deputy, Dave Wolniak, the home was completed in less than 5 months.
Deputy Wolniak describes the goal of the Inmate Construction Academy as a means to help inmates gain experience to carry into their lives post-sentence and as Wolniak says “to keep going in a good direction.”
Deputy Wolniak says the endeavor has been great for the inmates that built this home, saying “a lot of inmates are grateful for the knowledge and experience they’ve gained” and he looks forward to replicating a new home build with the partnership of Habitat Lake-Sumter in the near future.
Thank you to Sheriff Grinnell and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office for partnering with Habitat Lake-Sumter to build homes, communities, and hope.