The wind was whispering gently through the tall Australian pine trees on the morning of November 30th in a quiet Cape Coral neighborhood. The well-kept homes were beginning to sport wreaths, lights and other holiday decorations in anticipation of Christmas.
Inside the home on NE 5th Court, the anticipation was high as well. Three-year-old Antonia would be celebrating her first Christmas in her new home – a Habitat for Humanity home. She curled up on the floor of a newly carpeted bedroom to show everyone where she would sleep that night. Skipping into the kitchen, she stopped short at the sight of brightly colored cupcakes on the counter and reached out her tiny hand for a taste.
Angela Perkins and Willie Florence watched Antonia’s antics, with tears of gratitude in their eyes and huge smiles on their faces. They graciously received the symbolic gifts offered to every Habitat homeowner at the dedication of their new home: a small American flag to represent the achievement of the American dream of homeownership; a Bible imprinted with their names and the date of the home dedication to signify the Christian principles upon which Habitat for Humanity was founded; and a door knocker to serve as inspiration to share the Habitat opportunity with others.
In fact that was how Angela learned about the Habitat homeownership program – through a friend who is a Habitat homeowner. She applied for the program, thinking, “It won’t hurt to try!” Homeowner candidates, who agree to partner with Habitat, must meet certain financial thresholds; save $1200 toward their closing costs; attend educational classes focused on home maintenance and budgeting; contribute 250 hours of “sweat equity” and, most importantly, make a monthly mortgage payment set below 30% of their income.
Angela fulfilled her “sweat equity” hours answering phones and doing other office chores for Habitat. Willie worked on the ReStore truck, picking up furniture, appliances and other large items donated to the ReStore Retail & Donation Center. Habitat’s ReStore offers these items, as well as building supplies and household items, for sale to the public at significant savings and supports Habitat’s mission with the proceeds. Willie enjoyed the work so much that he plans to continue volunteering in that capacity.
When asked if they would like to say a few words as they received the keys to their home, Angela answered for both of them, “I’m speechless. There are no words to express how it feels to have a safe place to call our own – and to have a yard!” Little Antonia was obviously looking forward to playing in her own yard as she happily ran in circles on the freshly-mown grass.
There will be Christmas lights on the house, a welcoming wreath on the front door and definitely a Christmas tree, although Angela says she has already received the “best Christmas present I’ve ever had.”
Willie agreed, saying, “I couldn’t ask for more.”
About Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties
Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to follow God’s lead and partner with the community to provide decent, affordable homes for people in need so they may build better lives for their families. It is one of the largest Habitat affiliates in the country, and has provided more than 1,200 families in Lee and Hendry counties the opportunity to own their own home. Through the use of volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, homes are sold to the homeowners with an interest-free mortgage and monthly payments set at less than 30% of the homeowner’s income, making homeownership an affordable reality. It also supports Habitat for Humanity International by tithing a portion of its proceeds, allocated to Habitat’s global fund, disaster recovery in Haiti and initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean. For further information call (239) 652-0434 or visit www.habitat4humanity.org.