Habitat For Humanity Sarasota
By Lalaena Gonzalez-Figueroa
Photography by Giovanni Lunardi
“I’m part of something bigger than me”
Understanding what a Habitat for Humanity home is means learning what it isn’t. It is the result of hundreds of hours of sweat equity, a residence purchased by a homeowner who places a down payment on the property and who takes responsibility for making monthly mortgage payments. It isn’t a free home. The gift that Habitat for Humanity gives to families is far more than a physical structure. It’s hope, accountability, purpose, and opportunity. Through hard work, participation in classes and seminars, and financial responsibility, families are given a chance to make something better for themselves.
Executive Director Renee Snyder, whose professional background has proven an ideal foundation for her role with Habitat, is optimistic about the organization’s outlook. Despite a staggering foreclosure rate across the country, she notes, Habitat homeowners are consistently bucking trends, staying well below the national average. “Our homeowners are truly invested in their properties,” she explains. “They have played an integral role in building or rehabilitating their houses, and have spent many hours learning about their financial responsibilities.” An ongoing system of support, she adds, enables Habitat homeowners to reach out for advice or assistance when necessary. “We collect mortgage payments directly from our homeowners, which allows us to closely monitor their financial trends,” explains Renée. The organization’s continued involvement helps to ensure that homeowners don’t fall through the cracks, contributing to the trend of foreclosed or abandoned properties.
A Habitat for Humanity home is an integral part of the community in which it is located. Homes are sold to residents at market value, which keeps neighborhood values competitive and accurate. Habitat for Humanity has recently begun to acquire foreclosed residences, utilizing volunteers to rehabilitate and renovate properties for eventual sale to partner families. “This is a great benefit to homeowners throughout the neighborhood, who now aren’t dealing with abandoned, unsightly and unsafe properties,” notes Renee.
Today’s Habitat for Humanity homes are more eco-friendly, created with the needs of Sarasota’s residents in mind. “We aspire to create homes that are affordable and sustainable,” Renee explains. “From energy-efficient air conditioners and hot water heaters, to high-impact hurricane windows, we see the long-term benefits in these initial investments.” Rehabilitated homes, adds Renee, have seen upwards of 50% reduction on utility bills thanks to Habitat’s use of high efficiency lighting and appliances, along with eco-friendly landscaping.
What makes it possible for Habitat for Humanity to provide affordable housing throughout North Sarasota County is ongoing community support from individuals and organizations. And while most people might envision the typical volunteer as someone pounding nails on a new construction project, there is a range of opportunities to contribute to Habitat for Humanity. “Our volunteers do everything from providing administrative support in our offices, to working at our ReStore sites, to helping coordinate fundraising events throughout the year,” says Renee. The organization also accepts donations of building materials and supplies, appliances, furniture, books and jewelry, which are sold to the public through Sarasota Habitat’s two ReStore locations. The organization’s deconstruction program is an excellent resource for local contractors and individuals; skilled and experienced laborers will remove unwanted construction materials such as tile, fixtures and cabinetry, for resale through ReStore. “Not only are we saving individuals the trouble of hauling away their unwanted materials, but we are keeping them out of landfills,” notes Renee. “It’s a popular program.”
Financial gifts are an integral component of the ongoing success of Habitat for Humanity, which continues to invest in rehabilitating houses as well as developing new builds. “A monetary gift is one that multiplies,” explains Renée. “With so many families in need of affordable housing, we see a never ending opportunity to build and refurbish homes for new buyers.”
Habitat for Humanity is excited about the launch of a recent partnership program in which corporations, businesses and organizations seeking team-building opportunities partner up with Habitat for designated projects. “This promotes camaraderie within an organization, and gives participants a real sense of purpose,” observes Renee. “We have had success within the real estate community including the Sarasota Association of REALTORS® and Signature Sotheby’s International Realty, and we look forward to working with other local brokerages and organizations.”
Renee, who celebrated her one-year anniversary with Habitat for Humanity in March 2011, has earned honors as the National Association of Professional Women’s “Woman of the Year.” The award reflects her dedicated efforts and her vision for Habitat for Humanity and its partner families. “I have always been a passionate advocate for affordable housing,” she reveals. “I believe in the opportunity for individuals to achieve the dream of home ownership.”
Habitat homeowner Karla Arroglia agrees. “I tell everyone about Habitat for Humanity,” she asserts. “I love my home, and want others to have an opportunity to have a better life. It takes determination and focus, but it is worth it all in the end.”
Sarasota Habitat for Humanity celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010, and to date has made home-ownership a reality for over 200 partner families. The organization services just under 170 mortgages; the rest have been paid off by hard-working homeowners who take pride and accountability in their residences. Habitat for Humanity looks forward to ongoing projects throughout Sarasota, where partner families will continue to develop roots and blossom within their new homes and communities.
2 Photos Up, Left to Right: Graeme Malloch; Vice Chair, Renee Snyder, Jed Daniels; Diector of ReStore Operations
3 Photos Up: Habitat Volunteers
1757 North East Avenue
Sarasota, FL 34234
Renee Snyder, Executive Director
2095 17th Street
Sarasota, FL 34234
4409 Bee Ridge Road
Sarasota, FL 34233
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Copyright © 2011 REAL Magazine
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Photography used under license from Giovanni Lunardi Photography
Photography Copyright © 2011 Giovanni Lunardi