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Habitat of Pinellas and West Pasco celebrates 700th home build

Mark Parker

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A Habitat tradition - attendees put a hand on the home for the final blessing. Photo by Catalyst staff

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties reached an important milestone in its history of giving Monday, as the organization celebrated its 700th home build.

The 700th home build was unveiled in Pinellas Park, and Aurora Sakers and her daughter Ash were the proud recipients. They will purchase the home with a zero-interest loan through the Habitat homeownership program. Out of 1,100 Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the country, the Pinellas and West Pasco chapter is ranked second for new home builds.

Mike Sutton, President and CEO of the affiliate, said that Habitat alone cannot solve the affordable housing problem, however. He said in addition to local businesses, the organization also partners with state and local politicians to support its mission.

State Representative Linda Chaney, whose District 69 includes the Tellor Estates development where the Sakers’ home was built, was on hand to congratulate the family and Habitat for their milestone.

“Homeownership provides stability and builds community,” said Chaney. “Families benefit as well as those around them.”

Habitat also leans on their corporate and community sponsors for support, and more than 100 local businesses and supporters donated at least $700 each to help achieve this milestone. As an added gift, Feeding Tampa Bay fills the refrigerator and pantry of every new home, and Chief Programs Officer Matt Spence made a special announcement that it will provide groceries for the family for an entire year in honor of the milestone.

Solar Bear, which was recently named the 14th fastest growing firm in the U.S. and tops in the Tampa Bay region by Inc.com, has also donated and installed a solar roofing system on the Sakers’ new home.

Sakers thanked Habitat and its volunteers for giving her the “skills and tools to be a successful and financially responsible homeowner.” She also thanked Feeding Tampa Bay for providing groceries, Solar Bear for the roof, and her family and friends for their “support and encouragement of my dream of homeownership.”

Aurora and Ash Sakers stand in front of their new Habitat home. Photo by Joe Hamilton.

Fighting through tears, she addressed her daughter last: “Ash, my inspiration and my purpose, I cannot wait to provide you the security and stability of owning our own home,” Sakers said.

In June 2018, Habitat Pinellas and West Pasco acquired 7.3 acres in the Tellor Estates development in Pinellas Park, and the following summer, the organization broke ground on a large undertaking. Sutton said in a statement that “we have completed 33 new homes, have 18 under construction, and have completed the construction of a new road” in that one subdivision alone.

“Upon completion, the neighborhood will offer 75 local families and individuals the opportunity to improve the paths of their family for generations to come,” said Sutton.

State Senator Ed Hooper, also in attendance to celebrate the milestone, said he “has no doubt that Sutton will be fitted for wings one day.” He added that he looks forward to being there for the 800th and 900th home, as well.

Pinellas County Commission Chair Dave Eggers told the crowd at the event that after factoring in family, friends and neighbors that were impacted by the building of those 700 homes, he estimates 50,000 lives were directly touched by Habitat’s and their partners’ generosity. Indirectly, he believes the number is much higher.

“Out of the million people living here in Pinellas County, I can’t imagine many don’t know about the impact of Habitat for Humanity,” said Eggers. “I just want to take this opportunity to thank the volunteers, the staff, past commissioners, and all of the community partners out there who have made these dreams that these folks had become a reality.”

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