Volunteer Spotlight: Janet & Taylor

From left to right: Taylor and her mother Janet

From left to right: Taylor and her mother Janet

Today is International Women's Day and in recognition of this important day, Habitat Seminole-Apopka is honoring the strong women that dedicate themselves to building strength and stability in our community.

When Women Build launched in Seminole County and Greater Apopka, Janet and her daughter Taylor were some of the first volunteers recruited. They have participated each year since, helping to raise money and build 13 homes since 2014! Get to know one of our favorite mother-daughter duo's, Janet and Taylor:

Janet hanging drywall in one of the units of Magnolia Place in 2016

Janet hanging drywall in one of the units of Magnolia Place in 2016


Tell us about your experience with Women Build

It has been so heartwarming and amazing and so humbling.  I feel so good when I help a family.  It is community and I love helping our community!

What has it meant to volunteer with your daughter?  

Kids learn by example and I can’t begin to put into words what it means to me for her to want to help and work with our team. It makes me EXTREMELY PROUD!

Why do you fundraise and build for Habitat?  

To help boost our community and its families.  Everyone deserves a helping hand, especially when they want to really work for it.

What does home mean to you?

A safe and loving environment for families to grow and love together and become strong individuals moving into their own lives.  

Taylor installing second floor trusses at Antigua Bay in 2014

Taylor installing second floor trusses at Antigua Bay in 2014


Tell me about your experience with Women Build

Women Build is a great experience for a great . Plus, I get to spend time hanging out with my mom which is always a plus! 

Why do you fundraise and build for Habitat?

To help deserving families create stable, safe home environments like the one I grew up in! 

What does home mean to you?

Home is where my family is; built on love, hard work and a team effort

interested in joining women build this year? there is still time to join or start a team!

AmeriCorps Blog: Neighborhood Revitalization & Miss Juliet

Happy 2017 everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your holidays! I want to start 2017 by introducing you to an amazing woman who happens to be one of the homeowners we assisted back in November. Before I do,  I want to tell you a little more about the program I'm building with Habitat for Humanity of Seminole County and Greater Apopka, Neighborhood Revitalization (NR). While the program is fairly new to Habitat in general, it is already making great impacts in our communities. According to the most recent impact report, Neighborhood Revitalization affiliates now serve more than 61% of the total families served by Habitat in the U.S..

This is BIG news- it means Habitat is able to partner with more people than years prior. This is because NR is about rejuvenating and assisting whole communities. Habitat for Humanity of Seminole County and Greater Apopka has kicked off this project in the community of Plymouth in Apopka. Our program currently offers three services to our community partners: exterior painting, minor repairs, and landscaping.

Which brings me back to one of the homeowners we completed a project for in November, Miss Juliet. A resident of Plymouth for more than 30 years, she moved with her husband Robert to the close-knit community in 1977 and they raised their daughter Julonica there.

"I couldn't choose a better neighorhood to live in," Miss Juliet said, "and what Habitat is doing here is excellent. Kids from the neighborhood can come play in my yard now and it's a safe place for them."

Habitat first partnered with Juliet and Robert in 2014, when volunteers painted the exterior of their home.

This last year was a particularly hard one for Ms. Juliet. She lost her husband to cancer and two other close relatives also passed away. Around this time, Habitat expanded their NR services thanks to a partnership with Thrivent Financial. So on November 19,  a group of volunteers set about sprucing up Miss Juliet’s yard.

The project included spreading 80 bags of mulch along the side of her house. She operates a small daycare out of her home and wanted some extra bedding for the kids to play on. She also asked that we re-insulate the exposed pipes around her home. While we worked, Miss Juliet provided us with a delicious lunch and made sure we were all properly hydrated.  By noon we had finished her yard and she had a brilliant smile on her face. She was grateful for the work and very excited for her kids to see it.

Since then, Miss Juliet has been a great advocate for our program. She has helped to spread the word in the community of our presence and desire to help. I have been informed that she gets regular compliments on her yard now and that her kids love their new play area. We were able to give her a positive note to end her year on, and as small as it was, I was happy to see she found her smile again.



How Volunteering with Habitat Helps You Achieve Your Goals!

It's a new year (yay!) and we know that for some of you, that means setting new goals.  Whether you’re in the throes of a new health regimen or hoping to travel abroad, we’re here to help. At Habitat for Humanity, our work is based on the principle of providing a hand up, so we’ve taken four popular resolutions and explained how volunteering with Habitat can help you achieve them!

Give Back/Volunteer more

This one is pretty easy to figure out, right? Volunteering your time to Habitat for Humanity is truly seeing community transformation in action. Whether you're on a build site or in a ReStore, you're likely to run into a family in the process of becoming homeowners and working on their sweat equity. And it all comes full circle when you attend the home dedication to see a Habitat family receive the keys to their new home. 

Bonus Benefit: Recent studies have shown that the more time you give to volunteering, the more time you feel you have yourself!


Get healthier

Spending a full day on a construction site is usually a work-out. Depending on the day, you could be lifting trusses, hanging drywall, shoveling dirt, throwing sod, or painting entire houses. Ask anyone who’s volunteered on a construction site with us before, you leave ready for a shower (and feeling pretty good about the work you did)! 

From a Corporation for National & Community Service report: “Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health… those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.”


Recycle More

The ReStore is Habitat's discount home improvement outlet. Individuals, businesses, builders and remodelers, etc., donate unneeded building materials, cabinets, appliances, hardware, flooring, lighting, and other supplies, to the store. Those donated items are then sold at the ReStore with every penny in earnings going to Habitat for Humanity Seminole-Apopka to help build more homes. 

When you volunteer at one of our ReStores, you’re helping us recycle more than 927 tons of material each year. 



Did you know that Habitat for Humanity has a Global Village Program? You can volunteer internationally on a team to build decent, safe, and affordable shelter alongside members of the community you’re in. You’ll also learn about poverty housing, development challenges and Habitat for Humanity’s mission to help eradicate them. To get more information about our next trip, sign up here!

Volunteers from Habitat Seminole-Apopka in Nepal

Volunteers from Habitat Seminole-Apopka in Nepal

Shalanta's Home Dedication

It all begins with a home. Last night, among volunteers and donors, family and friends, Habitat dedicated its 160th home to Shalanta and her three daughters. The evening was the culmination of years of hard work for Shalanta, who began working towards her dream of homeownership long before she was accepted into Habitat's program. 

Shalanta's girls: Heaven, Halo and Harmony

Shalanta's girls: Heaven, Halo and Harmony

Now, after helping build 7 Habitat homes, including her own, working in our ReStores and taking all of our homeowner financial literacy courses, Shalanta and her girls will have a new home to start 2017 in. Even better? Shalanta's mother was also accepted in our homeownership program and will begin working on her home this Spring.

The girls received a special gift from home sponsor Coca-Cola!

The girls received a special gift from home sponsor Coca-Cola!

The foundation of Habitat's mission rests in the hands of the volunteers and donors who support it. The sponsors for this home were the Coca-Cola Company and Annunciation Catholic Church, and we couldn't be more thankful for their support.

every family needs a foundation to build a better future




My Family's Journey Home

Kalesha, Raul, and their four children at the groundbreaking for their new home

Kalesha, Raul, and their four children at the groundbreaking for their new home

Next year, my family will spend our first Christmas in our own home. After years of bouncing between apartments with my husband, Raul, and our four children, I was beginning to feel hopeless. At one point, my family of six was packed into a small, two-bedroom apartment. I felt overwhelmed and knew something had to change. 

I couldn’t have imagined that Habitat for Humanity was already in the process of planning the community that my family’s future home would be in, all thanks to the support of generous donors like you.

My path to homeownership began shortly after confiding in a co-worker that our rent was increasing again. She had been a volunteer with Habitat and explained how dedicated they were to helping families like mine. Six weeks after submitting our application, we received the phone call that changed our lives; we had been accepted! The joy my family felt was unexplainable and surreal. We were going to have a home of our own!

Raul and Kalesha welcoming volunteers to a build day.

Raul and Kalesha welcoming volunteers to a build day.

Once we were accepted, Raul and I got started on the hundreds of hours of sweat equity that every future Habitat homeowner puts in, working on their own home and others. So far, we’ve had the privilege of helping to build the first six Habitat homes in the community we’ll be moving into, Magnolia Place. Soon, we’ll be able to call those families our neighbors. None of this would have been possible without you.

This process of becoming a homeowner has taken a lot of work and a lot of love. As a family, we are beyond excited and cannot wait to begin working on our house in the next few months. 

We are so thankful and blessed for this great opportunity to build memories in our new home- it means so much for my family. It’s a safe place where my children can build memories. It’s knowing that we don’t have to worry about our rent going higher.  It’s my family being able to spend time together because my husband and I won’t have to find second jobs. The thought of it all is very comforting and full of joy. 

Kalesha with family, future neighbors, and volunteers at a dedication ceremony for the first cluster of homes in Magnolia Place.

Kalesha with family, future neighbors, and volunteers at a dedication ceremony for the first cluster of homes in Magnolia Place.

Next spring, my family will receive the keys to the home we built together. We will have helped install the drywall, build the cabinets and paint the walls, but that moment will have been made possible because of you.

I am so thankful for the volunteers and donors that strive to make this program a success and bring hope not just to my family, but all of the families that will come after us.



Every family needs a foundation to build a better future

YOU have the power to help a family like Kalesha's. Habitat works in partnership with local Central Florida families who are caught in the punishing cycles of unpredictable rent increases, overcrowded conditions, or lack of access to affordable housing.

Safe, decent and affordable shelter plays a critical role in helping families create a new cycle. One filled with possibility and hope.

Your gift makes it possible for us to say yes to more families. Will you invest in the future of a local family?

Want to learn more about Habitat's work here in Seminole County and Greater Apopka? Watch the short video here.

AmeriCorps Blog: Remembering to be Thankful

I’ve been struggling with what I wanted to write about this month. And then I realized that it was NOVEMBER!  I know, shocking! Anyway, this is the month where some of us reflect on what we have to be thankful for. So I started thinking, and the usual things popped into my head. I’m thankful for my friends and family, coffee, books, chocolate, peanut butter, the fact that someone decided to combine those last two!  But then I realized that I am also pretty thankful for AmeriCorps and my time serving with AmeriCorps. 

In my last post, I mentioned briefly that I was an AmeriCorps member and what that meant.  I think it went something along the lines of  “AmeriCorps is a federally funded national service program, made up of people ‘getting things done for America.’” But that does not really explain what AmeriCorps is and the impact AmeriCorps has on our communities. So to give you more of an idea of what AmeriCorps members have accomplished, here are some quick facts:  

5.2 MILLION the number of disadvantaged youth tutored, mentored or served by AmeriCorps members in fiscal 2011. 
4 MILLION the number of community volunteers managed or mobilized by AmeriCorps members in fiscal 2011.
$1 BILLION the value of cash and in-kind donations leveraged by AmeriCorps members in fiscal 2015.
17.6 MILLION people assisted in disaster areas
7.7 MILLION meals served
1.3 MILLION acres of land protected through firefighting and fire management.
1 MILLION Number of people who have served as AmeriCorps members since 1994. 

Impressive right?  Members tutor, mobilize volunteers, serve meals, raise money, fight fires and so much more. These accomplishments take A LOT of time and effort. 1 BILLION hours! That is the number of hours members have served since 1994. Do you know how impressive that number is?! That is 114,155 years! Members get things done. They work hard to strengthen our communities. 

About two weeks ago, I attended a Leadership Conference in Alabama. This conference is held annually for AmeriCorps Habitat for Humanity members and is a required part of your service year. In one workshop our presenter, Jill Cleveland, left us with a prayer written by Archbishop Oscar Romero A Step Along the Way. The last few lines stuck with me, and I think resonate with all of the work that AmeriCorps does and Habitat for Humanity does:

“We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”

AmeriCorps members and really, all of the people in Habitat for Humanity are working to secure futures for people they will never meet. This is where we have to be thankful for all of the little milestones we make along the way. When we see the light come into a student’s eyes when he finally can say the alphabet all the way through or watching a new homeowner and a volunteer connect as they paint a home. 

I cannot speak for all members or alumni, but I am truly thankful for my time with AmeriCorps. The thing is, serving others is addicting and it makes you realize everything you have to be thankful for. After my first term of service, I had a whole new respect for my parents and for everything they provided for me. I had been working with kids that often only received a good meal, when they came to school. I worked with kids that went home to a house that was in complete disrepair. I worked with students that had only one parent at home. That is why I do what I do. I work towards helping people who live at or below the poverty line. Despite popular belief, these people do want to better themselves. They just do not have the right tools to do so. 

So as we move into the season of thankfulness and giving, I ask you to ponder a few simple questions: What are you thankful for?  What are you doing for others? 
If you are a high school student or a college student or just someone who is looking for something different, I highly recommend checking out AmeriCorps. I can almost guarantee that you can find a position in or close to the community you live in. And if that is not something you are able to do right now, then check out your local Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity of Seminole and Greater Apopka is always looking for new volunteers and people who want to get involved. Do something for others. 

This monthly installment is written by our AmeriCorps member, Cydney Corwin. During her service year, she will be working on partnering with communities throughout Seminole County and Greater Apopka for our Neighborhood Revitalization program.

AmeriCorps Blog: Making a Difference Here and There (But Mainly Here)

In this monthly installment, our AmeriCorps member Cydney will share bits and pieces of her service year.

My name is Cydney and I am the newest member to Habitat for Humanity of Seminole County and Greater Apopka! Technically I am a Floridian by birth but I haven’t lived in the state since I was about one, so not really sure if that counts. You tell me.

I grew up moving around from state to state. No, not a military brat but a cereal brat (my dad works for General Mills). I tell you this, because I think this is one of the big reasons I have a wandering spirit. Well, that and the last place I lived was Iowa and after ten years I have firmly decided that I do not like winter. Although, I must say if you have never visited Iowa add it to your list because it is beautiful in the summer and fall!

Trail building in MO is a messy business

Trail building in MO is a messy business

So how did I end up back in Florida?  Well, I am a National Service member through AmeriCorps. And what is AmeriCorps?  AmeriCorps is a federally funded national service program that is made up of people “getting things done for America!" National members serve with different nonprofits all over the country. The organization I chose to work with was Habitat for Humanity. As part of my position I must serve 1700 hours of service through Habitat for Humanity of Seminole County and Greater Apopka. There are several different positions available to apply for depending on the needs of the local Habitat for Humanity. My particular position for my term of service is Community Engagement Coordinator.

Third Ward aka Lost Ward, Houston, Texas

Third Ward aka Lost Ward, Houston, Texas

As Community Engagement Coordinator, my job is to help develop and work on the Neighborhood Revitalization (NR) program.  To do this I have to work alongside community members and find out what it is they want to see happen in their community. This can be arranging neighborhood cleanups to helping organize a community garden. The most important factor of this is getting the community’s input or “engaging the community.” Without this critical information, NR cannot happen effectively.

Abandoned properties like this one are very common sightings in the Third Ward

Abandoned properties like this one are very common sightings in the Third Ward

This is my second term of service with AmeriCorps. My first term was through a different AmeriCorps program called the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). When I graduated from college I knew I wanted to work for a nonprofit. I just had no idea what nonprofit I wanted to work for. So I joined NCCC!

NCCC is a team based program and involves traveling the United States working with different nonprofits, government and religious organizations. I learned so much from my first term of service. I did everything from trail building in St. Louis, MO to working as a Kindergarten Teaching Assistant in Mesa, AZ. My last project, however, was the project that really made me want to work in NR. That project was working in the Third Ward of Houston, Texas. This is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. During this project my team and I helped to organize neighborhood cleanups, build wheelchair ramps, and add a fresh coat of paint to people’s homes. We helped to organize almost two thousand volunteers during that time, to accomplish these tasks.

Veggie Hats for the letter of the day, which was ‘V’ if you hadn’t guessed

Veggie Hats for the letter of the day, which was ‘V’ if you hadn’t guessed

There is so much you can learn about yourself and other people in this line of work.  Sometimes the work consists of adding a wheelchair ramp to the home of an elderly gentleman with an amputated leg, so he can safely get in and out of his home. Other times it may be cutting the grass in an empty lot next to the home of young family with small children or adding a fresh coat of paint to the home of family who just lost their father. NR work is all about building people up and bringing life back into the community. It is giving people ownership in the place they call home. I am excited to be a part of that here in Florida, in Seminole County, in my new home. And I am looking forward to “getting things done!’




World Habitat Day 2016

Tonight, a family of five will huddle on tattered blankets, grateful that the dirt floor beneath them is dry. A mother will say a prayer that no one sneaks into her shack through its open doorway. And a father will lie awake, hoping the roof will hold out one more month and wondering how he will afford all of the other repairs his house so desperately needs.

They are just a handful of the many people around the world living in inadequate housing. Without a safe place to live, they are less likely to be healthy, less likely to be educated, and less likely to be able to take advantage of employment opportunities that could pull them out of poverty.

To help address this need, the United Nations in 1985 declared the first Monday in October as World Habitat Day, which this year falls on Oct. 3. Habitat for Humanity participates in this international event because we know that adequate shelter is critical to improved opportunities, health and education.

Did you know that:

  • According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Seminole County resident would need to work 2.4 full-time jobs to afford a rental unit here.
  • About 1 in 4 people live in substandard housing. If action isn’t taken, that number will grow to 2 out of 5 — the equivalent of 3 billion people — by 2030.
  • Through Habitat's work each day, nearly 5,000 people find strength, stability and independence through safe, decent and affordable shelter.

World Habitat Day is a special opportunity for Habitat for Humanity to call on individuals and organizations to help us address poverty housing. On World Habitat Day, we hope you will join us by taking the following actions:

With your help, we can improve lives and communities — at home and around the globe. 

Meet Habitat Homebuyer Chuyna

Chuyna greets volunteers at the Women Build 2016 Kick-Off event

Chuyna greets volunteers at the Women Build 2016 Kick-Off event

Chuyna is ready to be a homeowner. Born and raised in Seminole County, the native Floridian is excited to finally put down roots for her family. A single mother to her two children, Jacari (18) and Aislynn (2), Chuyna and her children have been living in unaffordable housing for the last five years.  

Familiar with our homeownership program, Chuyna decided to apply after her second friend became a Habitat homeowner with us last year. She received the call that she had been accepted into the program while at her job with Florida Hospital, where she's been for over 16 years. "I was so excited, but I was at work so I had to contain it," Chuyna said, "But I was smiling all day."

Magnolia Place (before) - March 2015

Magnolia Place (before) - March 2015

For the last year, Chuyna has worked alongside her future neighbors and enthusiastic volunteers to build the home her family will live in. This part of the program is known as sweat equity, it's the down-payment a future Habitat homeowner puts on their home. The culmination of all that work is approaching quickly as the project nears completion. "I'm really looking forward to the financial freedom and ability to save."

Magnolia Place (during)- May 2016

Magnolia Place (during)- May 2016

Chuyna and her children will soon be moving into the first phase of Magnolia Place, a townhome community left abandoned and unfinished in 2008. Located in the Longwood area off Ronald Reagan Boulevard and just a few blocks from the SunRail Station, the project sits adjacent to an empty lot where Habitat will build four more units in early 2017. 

Homeownership means having something I can call my own. It also means stable housing for children. I’m ready for that. I’m ready to move on with my life.
— Chuyna

Your financial gifts, and gifts of time, enable Habitat to continue building better foundations in Greater Apopka and across Seminole County. Learn more about how you can support this important work in our community and join us in welcoming Chuyna and her children to the Habitat family!

Seven college apartment and dorm room items you can find at Habitat ReStore

It’s back to school time! For those of you heading to college – or have kids doing so – it’s time to start stocking up on the items that can transform a dorm room or college apartment into a space that feels like a home.

Fortunately, your local Habitat for Humanity ReStores have just about everything you need for your back to school furniture and décor shopping, all at prices that won’t break the bank. Check out all the great things you should look for during your next trip to Habitat ReStore below, as well as some DIY decorating tips that are fun and easy to create with items you’ll find at many Habitat ReStores.

1. Furniture

Filling your living space with places to sit, sleep and eat is one of the biggest challenges – and expenses – of living away at college. Habitat ReStore is here to help.

hether you need a sofa, kitchen table, bed, dresser or all of the above, you’ll find a slew of gently used furniture options at your local Habitat ReStore. Keep in mind that every store has a different inventory that changes daily based on donations from your community. Check back often to find exactly what you need.

2. Kitchen Appliances

In addition to the obvious necessities like utensils, cups and plates, you also may need many other kitchen accessories like a blender, toaster oven and the all-important coffee maker (for late night study sessions). Though these items seem like relatively small purchases, they can add up quickly. Habitat ReStores often carry a variety of kitchen gadgets at great prices!

3. Lighting

Many dorms are equipped with fluorescent lighting, which can prove harsh on the eyes. Pick up a lamp or two from the Habitat ReStore to reduce this harshness and provide your dorm room with a warm glow.

4. Washer and Dryer

If you’re living in an apartment without laundry facilities, you may need a washer and dryer. While this would ordinarily represent a large expense, check to see if your Habitat ReStore has a gently used washing machine and dryer that will save you trips to the laundromat

5. Storage

Dorm rooms and college apartments aren’t typically known for providing an abundance of space. The wide variety of items available at Habitat ReStore give you a chance to creatively make great use of the space you do have available.

For examples and inspiration, check out this Buzzfeed article on hacks that will help you get more space out of a small closet. Materials used for the hacks you may find at Habitat ReStore (that you may not immediately think you need for your college dorm room) include pipes, scraps of wood, chains and hooks.

6. Art

Blank walls provide a great opportunity to turn a generic dorm room or apartment into a space that is uniquely yours. However, purchasing artwork can quickly become expensive. Most ReStores have a large variety of art at great prices. You can even turn some finds into projects to produce your own unique artwork.

For just one really cool idea of how you can transform an old painting into something new and unique, take a look at number six on this list of creative DIY ideas and decorating tips for dorms. In fact, you’ll probably want to look at all 25 tips on the list.

7. DIY projects

Speaking of creating your own projects, sometimes the best ways to furnish and decorate your new living quarters are by making something completely new. 

The possibilities for this one are nearly endless. See this HGTV article featuring 40 DIY dorm room ideas for inspiration. These ideas use a wide variety of materials you may be able to find at Habitat ReStore, including room dividers, wooden crates, book ends, rope, trunks and brass fittings.