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Sanibel charities surprise single mother with renovated home

One Sanibel single mother is grateful she didn’t have to spend months isolating with her children in a small, unhealthy living space thanks to her island neighbors coming together to surprise her family.

“It still does feel amazing to have someone just do something so sweet and so kind for a family like us,” said Buffy Santoro.

She says she still can’t believe that this Sanibel house is now home for her and her three children.

“When we first saw this place my heart just sank. I was overwhelmed and shocked,” she said.

Single mother Buffy Santoro and one of her three children. (WINK News)

Her family previously shared a small apartment she describes as “full of mold in and out” and with “cockroaches everywhere.”

Then, these women came together to create this space specifically for the family’s needs.

“I think I might have been more emotional than Buffy was and I was so excited for them,” said Furnish With Care founder and executive director, Elizabeth Piersol.

This is why she started the “Furnish With Care” nonprofit — so she could use her interior design skills to transform lives.

“I saw how their lives could be transformed when the interiors of their homes became a safe and nurturing space,” Piersol said.

She partnered with Melissa Rice’s affordable housing program, CHR.

“We are the affordable housing program for the City of Sanibel,” Rice said. “We didn’t want Sanibel to just be for rich people, we wanted it to be for everyone. It was an amazing and priceless response from Buffy.”

“How grateful my heart is to both of them,” Santoro said. “I never had a room to myself. All the kids are enjoying their own space, we have our own area.”

She and her kids can now enjoy this new living space with the comfort that their community cares.

Right now, Sanibel’s CHR provides housing for 150 people, but they also have a waiting list. They hope to add 36 more affordable housing units on the island.

Reporter:Melinda Lee
Writer:Briana Harvath
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