By Joan Kelly
Everyone knows about Habitat for Humanity, or do they? We have been involved with Habitat for years. I knew that much of the work is done by volunteers from the buildings and family support to selection committee and home store clerks.
On the Habi Tour bus trip, I learned more than I expected and saw parts of Collier County and buildings that surprised me.
The tour started in the Habitat building with a light breakfast, DVD overview, and a bus trip driven by Ed who works for the bus company and is a Habitat owner. Note, you can meet people who are Habitat owners at Publix, at the hospital as CNA’s, at a restaurant or shop. Their occupations are that varied.
We started in Naples Manor with Kara Kouloheras and Jennifer Pash on board as our guides. The houses here are mainly foreclosures with 80 done and 40 to be done. It is cheaper to buy foreclosed properties and fix them up or tear them down because they have no impact fees. The lots are bigger also.
Then we drove east on US 41 to a trailer area where some of the Habitat people used to live in substandard housing. Trailers were in very poor condition with litter everywhere.
The newest Habitat development is Regal Acres down 41 east off Greenway. Habitat owns the land here and will build 184 houses. Twenty are done and many more are in process. They are attached villas using the same pattern as Trail Ridge with a few additions. There are now two bathrooms and the washer, dryer and hot water heater are in the garage.
Next we went to Trail Ridge which was completed about 2 1/2 years ago. A family invited us into their home to see their beautifully decorated living area. Then back to the office where we were encouraged to look into the Home Store to see the furnishing that are for sale.
Habitat holds the no interest mortgage on each house. Owners who may have been paying as much as $1200 for sub standard rentals are now paying about $600 on their Habitat home. They pay the mortgage payment in person each month. Personal attention to each owner is provided through continuing education and homeowner’s associations.
Habitat for Humanity is all about family. All families must be legal residents with no felonies, have a need for better housing, have an income of $18,000 a year (under $41,880 for a family of four), attend a series of classes, have a $1000 down payment and do 500 hours of sweat equity.
There are four churches on Marco that work directly with the organization. Rev. Lisa Lefkow, Executive Vice President of Development, pointed out that the United Church of Marco Island, St. Mark’s Episcopal and Marco Lutheran are taking on the challenge to build a house in 2011. Marco Presbyterian has a number of donors and dedicated volunteers. The Rotary Clubs on Marco support Habitat.
The next bus trip is April 13th at 9:am. Be sure to contact Jennifer for reservations 239-775-0036 or www.HabitatCollier.org.