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Habitat builds milestone 900th home

Ashley Morales

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From left: Xaviah, Xavier Jr., Xanae and their father, Xavier Jones, celebrate their new home in Largo, the 900th built by Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties. Photos: Ashley Morales.

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties reached a significant milestone Friday, handing over the keys to its 900th home to Xavier Jones, 35, a single father of three and Pinellas County employee.

More than 200 elected officials, county employees, neighbors and Habitat homeowners and staff attended the Jones home dedication ceremony. To earn his new home in Largo’s Ridgecrest neighborhood, Jones completed 36 homeownership education courses and, along with volunteers, over 450 hours of “sweat equity” building the house at 1231 Gooden Crossing.

“I’m glad during these past 16 months, y’all were able to see what it means to make sacrifices; what it means to be disciplined and to work for whatever you want out of life,” Jones said, voice breaking, to his children during his speech at the home dedication. “If I can say one thing about myself: It’s not about how you start, but how you finish. I am just so proud of myself and looking forward to starting on a new journey.”

The home is one of 81 built by the local Habitat affiliate in the past year, and one of over 100 built in the Ridgecrest community. The plan is to build 85 more affordable homes this year.

Jones, a mosquito spray technician for Pinellas County, will move from a one-bedroom apartment he shares with his family into his new home in the Ridgecrest neighborhood of Largo.

“When I started here, we were on house number 280,” Mike Sutton, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, told the Catalyst. “It does feel like we did 800 a couple of weeks ago. But it’s been 15 months, and 1,000 is around the corner. That family is already in our program; we just haven’t identified them yet.”

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties has been operating since 1985, building and selling homes at zero-percent interest to households that do not qualify for traditional mortgages. The program also provides an education curriculum to prepare families for homeownership, covering topics like budgeting and home maintenance.

In addition to being one of the highest-producing Habitat affiliates in the country, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties recently announced it would be expanding into Hernando County. 

“Really, it comes down to the fact that we have a phenomenal team,” Sutton said. “We have a board that is full of leaders, and then, it’s the community. The community continues to wrap their arms around us [because] they see Habitat as an integral part of moving the needle on affordable housing. We’re just one solution, but the solution that we provide is life-changing. It breaks the cycle of poverty and provides families the opportunity to own their own home, and that intergenerational wealth is important.”

Friday’s landmark home dedication not only celebrates a new homeowner but also honors the rich history of the Gooden Family in the Ridgecrest neighborhood. The story of this community dates back to 1936 when Chester and Corrine Gooden moved to Largo and purchased 10 acres of land for $800. Over the following years, the Goodens sold and donated parts of the land to build homes, businesses and a place of worship, bringing to life their vision of a safe and welcoming neighborhood for African American families to thrive.

“This is what our grandparents did for people as they moved to the area; they were the Habitat [for Humanity] back then,” said Elizabeth Helm-Frazier, the eldest grandchild of Chester and Corrine Gooden, during a speech at the 900th home dedication event. “Xavier and other African American families wanting to be first-time homeowners can [now] raise their kids in a safe neighborhood.”

The homes on Gooden Crossing in Largo built by Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties all feature a plaque at the end of the driveway, honoring the legacy of the Gooden Family.

The spirit of unity and achievement the Goodens began fostering nearly nine decades ago is not lost on Jones.

“That’s where the tears came from, just looking at my family, looking at my kids and listening to the encouraging words everyone was saying; it just touched me,” Jones told the Catalyst. “I just believed in myself that I could do it and I made it through with a lot of hard work. Sometimes, I could get a little mentally drained [during the homebuilding process], but I just kept going, and now I get to enjoy this moment with my family.”

In addition to the homes in Ridgecrest, Habitat has built more than 40 homes in the Lealman community of Pinellas County, and broke ground on a multi-million dollar townhome project at the end of 2023. Named “Longlake Preserve,” the townhomes will provide 54 homeownership opportunities. and become the organization’s largest multifamily development in its history when it welcomes Longlake Preserve’s first families by the end of 2024.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Suprina Byrd

    June 24, 2024at9:33 am

    I want to apply for a habitat house I’m on housing choice voucher and I need help in getting this program to help me get In what I need to do I’m on pinellas county housing choice voucher

    • Ashley Morales

      Ashley Morales

      June 25, 2024at11:56 am

      Visit https://habitatpwp.org/ for more information about the program and contact info to apply.

  2. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    June 22, 2024at9:32 pm

    Just so proud of this gentleman/Father.

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