The American dream has evolved over time to become many things. For some it is the promise of a stable job enabling them to care for their families. For others it is attaining a college degree, perhaps becoming the first in their family to do so. But perhaps the single most significant aspect of life that all people strive for is home ownership. The pride of owning one’s home, where turning the key and walking through a door to your own personal haven is something most of us enjoy and take for granted daily can seem like an unattainable goal for others. And for many in the area, purchasing a home is simply not in the cards due to several factors. Thankfully, Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County, Inc, is building homes, love, and dreams for many deserving individuals.
We recently spoke with Dee Danmeyer, the Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County, Inc. about the exciting construction projects and upcoming events the organization is involved in. For Dee, who has a total of 15 years with the HFH franchise, the last four being in Sarasota County, it is all about the people. She cites the tenacity of devoted volunteers who clocked a whopping 10,700 hours between 383 volunteers last year constructing homes. Not every volunteer begins their journey having construction experience in their past. Dee insists a dedicated site supervisor and core group of leaders make the process very streamlined for all so if you don’t have experience building a home, don’t let that deter you from volunteering, they will train you. But they are always looking for retirees and others from the construction industry to lend their time and talents.
So, who gets these homes that HBHSSC is building? Individuals just like you and me is the real answer. Have you ever thought what you might do if you were in jeopardy of being homeless? Let’s say you lose your job or a child becomes ill and medical bills drain your bank account. Hospital costs and prescriptions necessitate difficult decisions like save the life of your loved one or pay the mortgage. The situation, albeit sad and frightening, is not too far off from what happens to families all the time. Other life hurdles including loss of a job or significant other can drive people to housing insecurity in an instant. According to Dee, through community outreach programs and media connections, families affected by housing hardships contact the organization and the application process begins. Foremost, candidates must have a need for housing and must agree to invest 300 sweat equity hours in the process. They also must be able to afford the mortgage once the home is built.
Worldwide, HFH builds homes in over 70 countries. In South Sarasota County, eight to ten homes are built a year from Oscar Scherer Park area down to North Port. Due to the number of available lots in North Port, many of the builds happen there. They use two basic home designs but utilize landscaping, paint colors and finishes to make each home unique. New homeowners get to choose paint colors, cabinetry and countertop finishes and other touches, so they have a say in the construction process. Once dedication day arrives, Dee says the excitement is palpable, not only for the new owners but for the volunteers and sponsors as well. Families are showered with thoughtful gifts and when keys are in hand, the new owners get a few moments to thank the crowd. Dee goes to every dedication feeling like the process is a gift to her as well when the new owners’ step inside their new home.
Habitat for Humanity is not only involved in home building, they also have a Brush with Kindness program which focuses on neighborhood improvements. Income-qualified homeowners can receive assistance in home painting and exterior repairs. Many elderly individuals, physically disabled and American veterans have received help on their home projects. An upcoming Faith Build will feature dozens of local priests, pastors, and clergy all coming together to build a home for somebody in need. Women Build will bring together 125 women from all kinds of backgrounds to learn the various facets of homebuilding. Dee is excited the event will empower and encourage women and all people to step outside of their comfort zone and learn something new while helping fellow neighbors achieve the goal of home ownership. Every day you can visit HBH Restore at 1400 Ogden Road in Venice. This is not your run of the mill thrift store. Desirable home items, some new that have been donated by contractors can be yours for a nominal fee. Proceeds go right back to Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County.
“Providing a decent place to live” is what they strive for, but such a small part of what Habitat for Humanity is doing for our residents. Giving dignity to families in the form of home ownership not only helps the recipients it warms the heart of the community. Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County, Inc. is stemming the cycle of poverty and bringing people together to build homes and friendships one hammer and nail at a time. Habitat for Humanity partners with many local businesses whose donations and sponsorships are crucial. They are always looking to expand those relationships with not only merchants but individuals so please do not hesitate to get involved if you feel the calling. Learn more about Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County, Inc. Here.
Photos courtesy of Habitat for Humanity South Sarasota County, Inc.