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USF men’s basketball team assists Habitat for Humanity on ‘extra special’ home

Mark Parker

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The USF men's basketball lends a hand during one of Habitat's special build days. Photo provided.

Jeff Fishman has helped Habitat for Humanity build several homes for some of the most deserving people in the Tampa Bay area; however, a home currently under construction holds extra meaning for him and his family.

Fishman and his wife Brandy have been involved with Habitat for many years, starting with the Hillsborough County affiliate when their title company began handling its real estate closings. Fishman was later introduced to Mike Sutton, who oversees Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties. Their relationship began with Fishman showing Sutton how he could save the organization $35,000 to $40,000 a year on what they were paying for settlement services.

Then it became much more.

“We really got involved with the mission and fell in love with the mission. It aligns with what our family does – we have a family foundation. And it has turned out now that we’re giving back roughly two and a half times our gross revenue from Habitat, so they’re definitely on the winning end,” said Fishman in between hearty laughs.

“I’m a big proponent of giving a hand up, not a handout – and that’s exactly what Habitat does.”

On Sept. 24, through Fishman, the University of South Florida men’s basketball team drove across the bay to lend a hand in constructing a Pinellas and West Pasco Habitat home in Pinellas Park, in the Tellor Estates subdivision.

Fishman is a USF alum and has been “a pretty strong supporter of USF athletics over the last 12 to 13 years.” He said Sutton approached him with the idea of getting the university to participate in a community service day, to which Fishman replied, “absolutely.” Fishman contacted Brian Gregory, the head men’s basketball coach, who “thought it was a fantastic idea.”

“Given the fact that we’re in a pandemic and they haven’t been able to do any kind of community service, and community service is important to USF athletes to give them a realistic picture of the community,” said Fishman. “Since it was outside, it was a great opportunity to get the team out there, and so I helped put that together.

“And I think the guys really had a great time doing it.”

Fishman said athletes tend to live in a bubble, and exposing them to the needs of the surrounding community is important. He added that many services and resources are provided while they are athletes, which can sometimes lead to a false sense of what reality is like for others. He said that getting involved with and giving back to their community is a great educational tool and allows them the chance to interact with some of their fans as well.

Enlisting the team to pitch in on construction is not the only thing that makes this house that the Fishman family is sponsoring unique and special, however.

The Thompson family is moving in, a mother and daughter. Fishman said the daughter is a cancer survivor, and her name is Abbey. Fishman also has a daughter named Abbi – and her twin brother, Noah, is also a cancer survivor.

“So, matching us with this house was really extra special,” he said.

Fishman believes that one of the most empowering things in life is the stability of homeownership. He calls homeownership “the most sustainable way to build generational wealth,” and said that is what makes Habitat for Humanity such a special program.

“Inviting someone into the Habitat program, having them do the community service, going through the homeownership education, learning what is required to own a home – is priceless,” he said. “In reality, everyone should be required to go through some kind of homeownership course before buying a home.”

Fishman said the Thompson home will be ready for move-in Nov. 19.

 

 

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