A Block Party with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter is a one-of-a kind event. Through our Preservation and Repair program, we host a few “Spruce up the Block” Parties throughout the year that impact neighborhoods as a whole; volunteers spread out over the radius of a neighborhood and clean, caulk, paint, and repair homes to beautify the exterior, make minor safety repairs, and come together as a community.
The week of January 21-25th saw dozens of volunteers filtering in and out of a Wildwood neighborhood, even on mornings so chilly some worried the paint wouldn’t dry, working and repairing 11 houses overall and sharing in the camaraderie of transforming a neighborhood.
Throughout the year, Veronica Troxell, Habitat Lake-Sumter’s Preservation and Repair coordinator works to serve around 50 families but a “Spruce up the Block” Party is one of her favorite ways to provide much needed services to multiple families at once. “Block Parties are great because they ask for the whole community to get engaged. There is a lot of satisfaction in working on a large-scale project and seeing the neighborhood completely reinvigorated at the end of the week. Our volunteers are vital in working with the community to accomplish such a big task and to bring a lot of new life to the community!”
Working alongside Veronica to make the Wildwood Block Party a success was Kevin Tucker. Kevin is a Preservation and Repair Specialist with Habitat Lake-Sumter and the President of the Habitat Villagers Club. Kevin rallied club members and residents of the Villages to head up the volunteer work during the week while finishing touches were completed on Saturday from Block Party sponsor, Rotarians from Rotary of the Villages Noon.
In regard to the incredible effort and success of the Wildwood “Spruce up the Block” Party, Kevin writes:
Are you interested in being part of this awesome club? Check out Habitat Lake-Sumter’s The Villages Club and get involved in what’ s happening next!
It was a beautiful, clear morning on Tuesday, February 4th as executives of First National Bank of Mount Dora, directors from Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, and Lake County officials met at a newly set slab of concrete on West St. Louis Street in Eustis, Florida.
There to commemorate the first wall raising of the home being built in partnership with First National Bank of Mount Dora, Bob White, the president and CEO expressed why he was excited to play a role in this project with Habitat Lake-Sumter, “Home ownership in Lake County is a big part of making people productive citizens and of course, as a bank we are excited to be part of that financial well-being.”
For 30 years, Habitat Lake-Sumter has relied on committed partners like First National Bank of Mount Dora, who share a vision of the world where everyone has a safe and stable place to call home. As our county grows, so does the need for affordable housing that is within reach for hard working families; in the state of Florida, 1 in 7 households pay 50% or more of their income on housing. But by building a home with Habitat Lake-Sumter, we continue to bridge the gap to home ownership and make it possible for one less family to spend half of their income on housing.
Although it’s not just corporate partnerships that make new home construction possible. In the month of December, almost 90 individuals and local partners donated to our Holiday Match Campaign and raised $74,067 to be matched by First National Bank of Mount Dora; making the home on West St. Louis a reality for a future homeowner in Lake County.
After helping to raise the first wall, Commissioner Leslie Campione summed it up by saying, “It is because of community involvement and people coming together to help each other, it makes all the difference in the world and this house really represents hope and joy and stability for a family, and that’s what Habitat is all about.”
Leesburg High School construction students showed community members around the home and guests wrote positive messages for the eventual homeowners. The rest of the house will be built out in the coming months.
LEESBURG — Leesburg High construction students celebrated with their community Friday at a dry-in ceremony for the house they’ve been building with Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter since the start of the school year.
Dozens of community members and partners attended the dry-in, held in the partially built home at 107 North 12th St. to mark the completion of the home’s outer shell and the beginning of interior work for the students
“I loved seeing it, piece by piece, come together,” construction student Abraham Ledesma said during a brief tour of the home’s undeveloped interior.
Ledesma said it was the first time he’d ever gotten to work on such an expansive and satisfying project even having worked construction with his family in the past.
He pointed to the back wall of the house — the first wall they lifted into place — and began pointing to the different rooms, which included multiple bedrooms and two bathrooms.
He talked about the features of each room as though the wooden framework had already been walled off and he could see the finished product.
One sheet of drywall was set for the celebration as members of the community wrote positive messages on the inside and school district officials including Superintendent Diane Kornegay and board members Stephanie Luke, Bill Mathias and Sandy Gamble drilled the first screws.
The rest of the house will be filled out in the coming months.
Ledesma was happy, and surprised, with how much of the house he and his fellow students got to build. At first, he thought they would mostly be watching and chipping in on small things.
He said every part of the project, save for the air conditioning and electrical work, had at least one students’ hands in it, and most of the work was done independently: they’d get their instructions and be trusted to get it done.
The dry-in was also the first time the community was introduced to Bryan Russ, a 1996 Leesburg High graduate who just took over the construction academy from Jim Ellwood at the end of the fall semester.
By building a house for Habitat for Humanity, Villages High School Construction Management Academy students are learning a lot. Students celebrated reaching the dry-in stage Wednesday with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, Citizens First Bank, business partners in the construction industry, volunteers and the high school’s pep band. Dry-in is the turning point of the construction process when the framing, windows, exterior doors, roof, shingles and waterproof barrier are all done to protect anything inside the house that could be damaged by water. It’s usually the halfway point of the construction project, said Barry Martin, construction manager for Habitat for Humanity, who is supervising volunteers and working with VHS academy instructor Bruce Haberle.
Amanda Kelley: Painting Central Florida
Our vision at Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, a world where everyone has a decent place to live, is simple in words yet it remains an extraordinary goal. One that could never be realized without the self-less contributions of time, talent and treasure that individuals, businesses and the community so graciously invest to that end. As we work towards that vision of safe and affordable housing, we find ourselves ever so fortunate to have benefited from a steady stream of businesses and area residents willing to support one project or another. Among those casual patrons of our cause we often find true partners; those with whom we build a lasting relationship, those who continually share in our mission to build homes, communities and hope.
Amanda Kelley is one of those community partners that has, time-and-again, supported not only Habitat Lake-Sumter, but our mission, as she’s gives back to the community in so many ways. Amanda Kelley, who owns Kelley Painting Services of Florida is a transplant from Chicago, circa 1985, and a graduate of Leesburg High who now considers Central Florida her home. And, as she’s done for countless homes in the area, she’s dedicated to making this one as beautiful as it can be.
Kelley regularly participates in Habitat Lake-Sumter projects and was involved in the organization’s first peer-to-peer event, Women Build, last March. When pressed for her thoughts on the challenges of the event, Kelley simply shared that she loves working with other women, whether it’s in construction or professional services, but this particular event was “just fun!” Kelley says, “as long as we were laughing and making someone smile, that’s all that matters.”
Kelley is also heavily involved with the Youth Construction Academy, a partnership between Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter and local high schools that gives students an opportunity to learn skills in various construction trades while earning credits towards graduation and giving back to the community. “I believe strongly that kids with a hands-on experience in this industry can go as far as their college counterparts,” says Kelley who helps teach them standard skills she says any painter starting out in the industry should know. Kelley says she likes to connect with the kids, hear about their goals in the industry and have some fun along the way. “We give them fun things to do like caulking … we get to see their mad skills and also how much they can get on themselves,” she says with a laugh.
When Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas in the fall of 2019, community partners stepped in to help convert a few shipping containers into homes as part of an international relief effort. Kelley, who has made community service part of the culture at Kelley Painting Services of Florida, wanted to help and so did her team. “Habitat mentioned the project and I said, ‘then let’s make them pretty and stand out’,” said Kelley. “They let me pick me the colors and, of course, I went BOLD!” Kelley and her team that volunteered with her completed the paint job in half a day.
With all the good that Amanda Kelley and her team has done, and continues to do, her motivation is simple. “I’m just paying it forward,” she says. “If times were reversed, I hope someone would do the same for me.” But in speaking with her, something more comes across. Many people are motivated to help better their community because “it’s the right thing to do.” However, Kelley seems to genuinely enjoy both the effort and the outcome of her occupation and volunteerism alike. At Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter, it’s something we often see in the pride-of-ownership displayed by new homeowners.
As Amanda Kelley continues painting Central Florida, whether it’s with Habitat Lake-Sumter or Kelley Painting Services of Florida, we’re sure her “pride-of-ownership” will show through as she helps make our homes and hers the best they can be.
By David Larrick
The show will feature Leesburg construction students, local tradesmen and other partners as they work together to build a Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter home in Leesburg. New 15-minute episodes will air the third Monday of each month on Lake Sumter TV.
LEESBURG — Those curious how high school students could help build a house from start to finish have an opportunity to find out.
Habitat Academy, a 15-minute television show documenting the Leesburg High School Construction Academy’s work on a Leesburg home with Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter, will debut Monday at 7:30 p.m. on Lake Sumter TV. The channel will also upload it to Youtube and play it again throughout the week.
“I think people are going to be surprised by the progress,” Red Apples Media President and Habitat Academy executive producer Marc Robertz-Schwartz said. “We’re just amazed at how quickly that home is going up.”
Red Apples will continue to visit the home at 107 N. 12th St. once monthly in order to record the episodes, which will be released around the third week of every month. Robertz-Schwartz said they waited till the end of the year to produce the first episode as the build — a collaboration between expert tradesmen, Habitat volunteers and 11 LHS construction students — needed a few months to get off the ground.
Now that the build is underway and the production schedule has been outlined, Robertz-Schwartz said they’re expecting to produce nine episodes of Habitat Academy.
Their aim will be to showcase the build as it goes up, with episodes themed around the progress of the house.
The first episode will feature interviews with the construction students as well as community partners on the build and the show. In the following episodes, to be hosted by Don Magruder of RoMac Building Supply, the show will feature interviews with tradesmen and other experts as they showcase the progress of the build.
Any organization that continues to thrive after nearly 100 years of service to their community has earned the right to be called a fixture of that community. However, First National Bank of Mount Dora has also earned the right to be called a “member” of our community, a distinction clearly defined by their engagement in philanthropic endeavors and their eagerness to serve the area’s residents well beyond the walls of the banks they operate throughout the Golden Triangle.
First National Bank of Mount Dora is building upon their legacy of giving back to the community by sponsoring the construction of a new home to be built for a family in Eustis, FL. In addition, they have graciously agreed to be Habitat for Humanity’s Holiday Match Partner, matching any donations given to Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter between December 3rd and December 31st, up to $75,000.
The bank’s President, CEO and Vice Chair of the Board, Bob White, says the bank’s commitment to the community is part of their identity, having never strayed from the vision of their founders to remain an independent community bank. “We work and live in Mount Dora and the Golden Triangle area,” says White. “And we are pleased to be able to support our community in many ways, through the participation of our board and our employees.”
As it has been since the beginning, the board, management, and staff of The First National Bank of Mount Dora are members of the community, and the bank continues to be locally owned and operated. Now in its fourth generation of leadership, the executive team at First National grew up in the bank. White himself was born in Eustis and attended school in Mount Dora. And, as is the case with First National Bank, it’s often seen that organizations with a foundational connection to the community are among the first to give back when called upon to do so.
White noted the bank has been deeply involved in the community since the very beginning. “Employees have served on numerous boards and organizations including local Chambers of Commerce, Hospital boards and committees, Community Redevelopment agencies, Junior Achievement and the list goes on,” said White. “Donations have been as much in time and hours as monetary. That involvement is something we find extremely important.”
In addition to sponsoring a home and their generous financial support during the Holiday Match program, First National Bank of Mount Dora has signed on to participate in Habitat for Humanity’s first annual Jingle Build-Off on December 7th. This friendly competition challenges teams to build a custom playhouse based on the interests of the child assigned to their team. “We have a great group of employees that are excited about being able to provide a child with a playhouse,” says White, who also shared that the bank expects to have more than 75 volunteers signed up to help build the home in Eustis during 2020.
White says he and the rest of the bank’s leadership team has always been proud of the level of participation of their employees. “Community involvement is encouraged, and we believe it’s something that comes naturally in great employees which in-turn translates into a great banking experience and a great bank.”
Through the generosity of the bank, its employees and those that participate in the Holiday Match program, Habitat for Humanity will be able to share the gift of home ownership with another deserving family in our community. Sponsors like First National Bank of Mount Dora not only make an impact on their own, but they encourage and enhance the impact of so many others and for that we are thankful to have them as a both a fixture and member of our community.
Double your holiday donation to Habitat for Humanity by clicking here and entering “Holiday Match” in the comments section.
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.
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
After touring the home she and her family were presented Friday, Lorie Lozada said: “We have two beds and TVs but we need sofas and a dining table, things like that. But that’s OK, little by little we’ll get what we need. The house is the important thing.”
EUSTIS – Around this time last year, James Santiago, his wife Lorie Lozada and their now 8-year-old son Jianluc Santiago were pondering a move from Puerto Rico to Florida after losing their home and possessions to Hurricane Maria. They had no idea where they would be living or what was in store for them.
On Friday morning however, they received keys to their very own home in Eustis, built just for them by Habitat for Humanity and other organizations, including the Ohlsson Charitable Trust, the Women Builders and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, who all came together for the cause.
“We are emotional and so excited,” Lozada said. “We just feel so incredibly lucky,”
The family had first been living in a hotel, and then in a nearby apartment.
“It’s a beautiful house and I feel so happy and grateful,” Santiago said.
Friends and family of the recipients, volunteers and members of all the participating organizations were invited to a “Welcome Home” dedication ceremony in front of the 3-bedroom, 2-bath home on Friday morning.
Habitat’s CEO Kent Adcock said for him, helping the family was especially meaningful because his own parents were victims to the wrath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and lost their home because of it.
“I know what they are feeling; what they are going through,” Adcock said at the dedication.
Through the building process, the house served to help many others along the way.
Lake Tech’s Laurie Bryant of the Women Builder’s “Hammer Knocker” team, said she was able to learn about what goes into building a home from scratch and found it very fulfilling.
Bryant and her team members on Friday, presented the family with a bible and a tool kit after they were presented with a flag by Ron Grove of the Sons of the American Revolution.
“I am honored that we were able to help build this house,” Bryant said.