SUMMERFIELD — James Collins sat in the shade on the porch of his Summerfield home and watched as two engineering students from France worked on a wooden ramp.
The addition of the ramp in April made the house more accessible for Collins and his wife, Deborah. Both have health problems that make climbing steps difficult at times.
“You can’t believe how important this ramp is for me and my wife,” James said. “I’m at a loss for words about this, and I’m never at a loss for words.”
The Collinses have lived in Summerfield for 13 years, and for most of that time they were able to make their own additions and repairs. But this time, they needed a little help.
The ramp was built as part of the Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter Florida’s Preserve and Repair program. It is just one of several ways Habitat is able to help families attain or keep affordable housing.
Since 1989, the Lake and Sumter Habitat has provided 265 homes for families in Lake and Sumter counties, said Danielle Stroud, Lake and Sumter Habitat director of development.
Stroud added that volunteers and sponsors are important elements in providing affordable housing for residents. Their donations of time, money and materials keep the costs down for new homes and repairs. The nonprofit has 4,000 volunteers who contribute 30,000 hours of volunteer labor annually.
This week, thousands of women will participate in Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week. Lowe’s Home Improvement sponsors the national event with financial and volunteer support for hundreds of programs.
Locally, Habitat is planning to serve nine families in Lake and Sumter counties this week, including in Umatilla, Wildwood, Leesburg and Mount Dora, Stroud said.
“So far, we have 50 women set to volunteer,” Stroud said. “We still have some availability, so women are welcome to reach out to us.”
Anyone interested in participating can contact the office Tuesday or Wednesday for more information at habitatls.org.
Spring is in the air, and so is a record level of pollen and, for some states, unwelcome snow. Whatever your region or affliction, the time is right for some heavy-duty cleaning, and Habitat is here to help! Spring Cleaning is often associated with a full blitz of the house (including the garage, husbands out there) and many times there’s large items that need to go. Habitat for Humanity Lake Sumter has four ReStores that don’t just receive your donated items, we’ll even come get them – it’s free, and all you have to do is give us a call. Furniture, old (but functional) appliances, and electronics that you upgraded from on Black Friday but can’t bring yourself to get rid of; our ReStore truck teams will take it all, with some exceptions. To check if your item is a good fit, give your local ReStore a call, and if it looks good then they’ll get you in touch with the scheduling team to come get it.
Check out this article by Rodale Wellness: 14 Decluttering Secrets for Successful Spring Cleaning
One of the lesser-known and more unique ways of supporting Habitat is through the Cars for Homes program. This option allows people who are upgrading their vehicles, downsizing their collection, or simply getting rid of a driveway accessory to donate the vehicle to Habitat, where it is sold and the proceeds support our mission. We don’t just accept cars, either! We can take donations of motorcycles, RV’s, trailers, golf carts, and work trucks. All donations through Cars for Homes receive a tax receipt which may qualify you for a nice deduction, and you’re helping lessen emissions and increase recycling value if you donate. If you’d like to get more info, or see if you have a qualifying item, you can check out the website here or give Cheryll a call at 352-483-0434 x141.
Check out the Cars for Homes Program: Cars = Homes
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 email@example.com to get hands on for a hand up, not a hand out.
A Beginning and an End
On April 14th, Habitat of Lake-Sumter was proud to dedicate three new homes and officially welcome the Homrich, Dyhr, and Mabry families to the Veterans Village! The families were honored for their hard work and dedication through the completion of the Home ownership program, and were celebrated on beginning the first chapter of their new journey. This event came as the perfect ending to a season of generosity in our community, as local donors alongside RoMac-Lumber & Supply raised money in support of the community through the March Match campaign.
The Veterans Housing Initiative has always been a special cause to Don Magruder, CEO of RoMac, and his pledge to match donations, dollar for dollar, inspired donors to give generously… doubling their investment in affordable housing. This year, the match ran through the month of March, and because of the community’s generosity and dedication to the mission, the campaign met and exceeded the goal of $10,000!
Our Community Partner
As one of our long-standing partners, RoMac Lumber & Supply has been a huge contributor to our mission and has enabled us to continue reaching the community across Lake and Sumter county. RoMac has been a staple of Lake County for over 70 years and has expanded to serve much of the Southeast United States. Whether it’s wood, trusses, doors, or otherwise, RoMac has remained a steady supplier of quality materials and service for central Florida and beyond.
Our Homeowners, The Reason to Give
In attendance to greet and celebrate our three Veteran families were 20 community members. The joint home dedication, gave an opportunity for food, fellowship, and viewing of the families homes. Each homeowner has their own story to tell, but here is little bit about each family:
- Greg Homrich served in the United States Marine Corps, Army, and National Guard, and is still serving his community as a dispatcher for the Leesburg Police Department. Upon getting to know Greg, you will quickly find out that he is most excited about becoming a member of this unique community, having already built relationships with many of his neighbors.
- Beth Dyhr, is the spouse of her late husband who proudly served in the United States Marine Corps. As Beth’s first home as a single women, she is thrilled to start a new chapter in her life and instill her own passionate, vibrant spirit into the home.
- Kathleen Mabry was a member of the United States Army, and her ability to define strength through adversity left a mark on our staff. She is proud to be a new homeowner, and shared that the opportunity is most special because it offers a safe and secure home for her to raise her 10-year old grandson.
About the Community
The Veterans Housing Initiative led us to develop the Veterans Village in Umatilla, Florida, where veterans and their families enjoy safe, affordable housing built in a small neighborhood that focuses on relationships. Our ability to meet the needs of our local veterans is due to the compassion and generosity of our community and through partners like RoMac. We also teamed up with Combat Veterans to Careers to offer extra services to the residents – things like healthcare, transportation, and help navigating the Veterans Affairs system, to name a few. This ensures that we’re providing not just a house but a community network of support, which for many veterans is crucial for the stability they seek.
As a community-based and community-focused organization, it’s always inspiring to see how much can be done on a local scale. Your consistent support, whether it’s financial or volunteering or both, never ceases to amaze us, and we thank you so much for it! We’re looking ahead eagerly to the next big project and can’t wait to bring you along for it.
Apartment-size homes are being billed as a fresh idea for affordable-housing demands.
Aesthetically appealing, affordable, high-quality entry-level homes are in demand in Lake County, according to a local housing expert who claims the American Dream is out of reach for four out of ten families in the county.
“My purpose here is I intend to open a window,” says Kent Adcock, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, as he metaphorically paraphrased the words of Pope John Paul XXIII while recently proposing a housing concept to the Lake County Board of County Commissioners.
“Just open a window and let some new thoughts blow in, some new ideas come into our thinking,” Kent says. “We should be challenged to bring in that innovation to consider alternative models for affordable housing.”
He has discovered many millennials are increasingly eliminated from housing opportunities due to entry-level incomes.
“I am not proposing a tiny home community, which is a phenomenon that has recently developed where people live in RV-like mobile units of 125 to 250 square feet. I personally believe that there is merit in that model, but what we are talking about is real high-quality, energy-efficient, small footprint, fee-simple, apartment-sized homes (where homeowner owns house and land) built in a walkable community that is either on a slab or stem wall,” Kent says. “The key term is apartment size—400 to 700 square feet, one bedroom or two bedrooms. In the past, historically, households began meagerly with a starter home, not a 1,600-square-foot, $160,000-plus home, but an apartment-sized home.”
The concept of cottage homes would offer a smaller price point for entry-level homeowners or those looking to downsize. Kent showed the county commissioners photos of some of these smaller houses built in the North Carolina mountains that were in the $70,000 to $80,000 price range.
“There is a movement toward minimalism, especially millennials, and even people my age,” says Kent, who recently downsized to a smaller home with his wife. “We cut our house in half. It’s less maintenance, less to keep up, less cost, and I think a lot of people are beginning to recognize McMansions are not necessarily everything they are cracked up to be.”
If you thought construction in The Villages was booming — you haven’t seen anything yet.
Now, all eyes are set on training the next set of builders and craftsmen.
On Tuesday, representatives from The Villages High School’s Construction Management Academy were joined by community and business partners to officially announce a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter.
Starting in August, 12th-grade students enrolled in the academy will no longer start their day in the classroom, but rather on the job site working side-by-side with volunteers to construct an anticipated 1,200-square-foot, 2-3 bedroom home.
“This gives the kids the ability to build a home from start to finish,” said Larry Green, construction management teacher at VHS and resident of the Village of Osceola Hills. “They’ll get to be a part of all the different components — from the ground substructure, all the way to the top of the roof.”
The school currently offers nine academy options to juniors and seniors, including health sciences, engineering, entrepreneurship and more.
Both agriscience and construction management were added prior to the start of the current school year, largely to accommodate growth and demand
in The Villages.
Tuesday’s partnership with the local chapter of the nonprofit organization was the result of many months of planning that included gaining building permits, negotiating with insurance providers and attracting local business partners.
“It’s going to be exciting working with these young people,” said Barry Martin, construction manager with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, who already has secured the site for the new home off Griffin View Drive in Lady Lake.
“You know not everybody is cut out for college,” added Martin. “In construction, there’s just so many different arenas that you can go into. Each one of them all have the potential to make an excellent living, and maybe even start their own businesses one day. Being able to share with them the joy in building a home, and seeing something like this go up — it’s just going to be awesome.”
Tuesday also served as a platform to unveil a new 24-foot trailer designed by Mike Manly, owner of MiCo Customs — a Wildwood-based residential and commercial contracting service.
That unwanted sweater, tennis racket or couch could make an impact on the local community if it is donated to the right thrift shop.
And that’s not just because someone in need could buy it at an affordable price.
Many local thrift stores use proceeds to support the missions of organizations in the tri-county area. Among them, one funds equipment for The Villages Regional Hospital, another supports an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and yet another helps fund the construction of affordable homes.
These thrift stores provide good bargains to shoppers, but residents who donate, volunteer and shop in the stores are making a difference in other ways.
Each store has different items and each cause is different, but leaders of the nonprofit shops all agree that building strong relationships within the community is important to success.
Pat Wesolowski volunteers with Ye Olde Thrift Shoppe in Lady Lake and is one of the founding members of the store. She said the people make the store special.
“The growth has been amazing, but so have the friendships I’ve developed with other volunteers and our customers,” Wesolowski said. “These relationships are so important to creating a place people want to shop. They have to feel welcome.”
Ye Olde Thrift Shoppe
The store opened in 2008 in Lady Lake to help fund The Villages Regional Hospital Auxiliary Foundation and ultimately, The Villages Regional Hospital.
It started with one small building, and anotherbuilding was purchased in 2015. The store expanded and added furniture to the long list of items it sells.
Dick Campbell, president of the foundation development team, expanded on the list of traits he thinks a store should have to be successful.
“There are numerous thrift stores in the area, so we have to be unique,” Campbell said. “The staff and volunteers look for ways to present the merchandise at its best. Nothing goes on the floor dirty. The store has to be inviting — both the way it looks and the volunteers who run it.”
It does not hurt that the store is now a stop on the Lake County bus route. That definitely brings in more people, Campbell said.
Dot Casleton, of the Village De La Vista, made her regular stop at the store Wednesday morning.
“I’m here for the books,” Casleton said. “I read about three books a week, and the books here are cheap. And the selection is great.”
She also has purchased furniture and linens in the past. Casleton credited the staff’s ability to showcase the merchandise and sell only the best for bringing her back to the store regularly.
Habitat for Humanity
The Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter ReStore in Wildwood is almost always busy. Either someone is dropping off donations or numerous customers are filling shopping baskets, said Shari Kuck, program coordinator.
“The donations and ultimately, the sales, help build homes for people in need,” she said.
There’s a big reason happy hour is usually so happy – buy one, get one! Everything is better when it’s doubled, and it’s no different for your donations.
We now have an amazing opportunity to make your $25, $50, or $100 donation go twice as far and help us build twice as many homes for low-income veteran families in the community. For the entire month of March, our longtime partner and sponsor, RoMac Lumber & Supply, will be matching every dollar donated to Habitat for Humanity of Lake Sumter, up to $10,000! All proceeds under this program will go towards our Veterans Village in Umatilla, Florida, and will help us place more veterans in need into a new home. For many of these families, home ownership is just out of reach, but with your help we’ll be able to give them a hand up and help them towards a more stable future.
In a month otherwise known for its madness, take a moment and donate towards someone’s peace of mind, brought by the fact they now have a safe, affordable home to call their own. You have through March 31st to double your dollar!
Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply was founded in 1945 by the McDonald and Robuck families when they jointly purchased Woods Lumber Company in Green Cove Springs, Florida. A second yard was opened in Tallahassee, Florida in 1945, and the company officially took the Ro-Mac name with the purchase of Leesburg Lumber and Supply in 1947.
The flagship store in Leesburg went through a major renovation in 1950, and was a leading provider of construction materials in the Central Florida area. In 1972, a fire devastated the facility, and the Robuck family, along with members of the community, rebuilt the facility.
During the 1980′s, the company added its door shop, and expanded the Leesburg operation to offer more services to the professional customer. In January 1988, Dan Robuck, a successful practicing attorney in Central Florida, took the lead and became sole owner and CEO.
Under Dan Robuck’s direction, the company opened a store in Lady Lake, and acquired Golden Triangle Supply in Mount Dora in the early 1990′s. The company greatly expanded its garage door installation business with several acquisitions, and it became a leading provider of commercial doors and hardware.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what does it take to keep that village up? An active community!
While our usual Preservation and Repair projects focus on individual homes in need of exterior restoration, clean-up, and accessibility improvements, we know that there’s bigger ways to meet the needs of our community. That’s why we’re partnering with various local groups – from police departments to churches – to start providing these types of services to larger groups of homes at one time. By addressing a larger group of homes with a larger group of volunteers, our impact is, well, larger.
For the first “Spruce Up The Block Party” event, we’ll be heading into Mt. Dora and putting our efforts into the homes on Gorham Street. With some homes having come from the 1930s, there’s many ways we can gear up, buckle down, and get to work. Most efforts will focus on increasing the safety and cleanliness of these homes while improving the appearance of the area as a whole. Not everyone wants a new house, but it’s hard to turn down a fresh coat of paint, a pressure-washed driveway, and a well-groomed yard. Homeowners and community members will get to interact and work together on this initiative, creating a stronger bond and forming new relationships.
Volunteers from all backgrounds and experience levels are welcome! We’ll have our experienced staff on-site to coordinate efforts in conjunction with other community leaders, so don’t worry about being new to the game. For more information about dates, locations, and how to get involved, head to the event page here!
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?