AmeriCorps Blog: A bittersweet ending to an incredible chapter

Cydney welcoming a cohort of Women Build volunteers in May this year

Cydney welcoming a cohort of Women Build volunteers in May this year

For two years, I have served as an AmeriCorps member. I have built trails in Missouri, taught Kindergarten and cleaned up a camp in Arizona, assisted in revitalizing a neighborhood in Texas, and most recently helped to provide strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter in Florida. Today I end my career as an AmeriCorps member. 

Before I joined AmeriCorps, I was blind to the issues we face in this country. It did not affect me personally, so I paid it no mind. That all changed when I decided to minor in Non-Profit Management and eventually joined AmeriCorps. For the first time, I was immersed the issues that many of our fellow citizens face and at times, it felt like I was in another country. 
 

Cydney during her first AmeriCorps service year

Cydney during her first AmeriCorps service year

Cydney and Habitat Homebuyer partner, Dellanira

Cydney and Habitat Homebuyer partner, Dellanira

The issue that stood out to me the most was poverty. The vicious cycle of poverty has an impact on so many things, from education to health, housing to child development. From what I could tell, there didn’t seem to be one root cause and there certainly didn’t seem to exist a solution to give people a hand up from it.  And then I began my second year as an AmeriCorps National member with Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat has an amazing reputation for giving people a hand up out of poverty. It has been proven that with an affordable and decent place to live, families can invest in things like their education and health. They can spend more time together and develop a sense of confidence. Habitat has developed a sustainable model for housing that works just as well here in Seminole County and Greater Apopka as it does in Chicago, Illinois or Chitwan, Nepal. Their reciprocal and adaptable model is what originally attracted me to the organization and it’s what has made my last year of service so impactful.   
 

Cydney working on her first Habitat home!

Cydney working on her first Habitat home!

Welcome volunteers to Magnolia Place!

Welcome volunteers to Magnolia Place!

During these last ten months, I have fallen in love with Habitat for Humanity's mission and the communities we serve. I am coming away from this term of service with a wealth of knowledge in volunteer management, construction, and a better idea of the issues our homebuyer partners face. I'm also coming away knowing that I have helped 15 families, mobilized close to 800 volunteers (increasing our volunteer engagement by 52 % in the five months I managed that program) and worked to revitalize two communities. 

While my time as an AmeriCorps member has ended, my time with Habitat for Humanity is only beginning. I have happily accepted a full-time position as the Community Outreach Coordinator with this affiliate! I will be managing our volunteer program and working to further develop our Neighborhood Revitalization program. I’m excited for the opportunity to expand on what I’ve been able to accomplish these last ten months and can't wait to continue to work side-by-side with this community to build a better future for local families. 

Always very serious, Cydney celebrates Mayor's Day of Service

Always very serious, Cydney celebrates Mayor's Day of Service

Cydney and from the Plymouth community in Apopka, our first partner neighborhood under our Neighborhood Revitalization program

Cydney and from the Plymouth community in Apopka, our first partner neighborhood under our Neighborhood Revitalization program

The entire Habitat team breaking ground on our largest project to date, Juniper Bend. Interested in volunteering on this development? Cydney is your girl! Her contact info can be found below.

The entire Habitat team breaking ground on our largest project to date, Juniper Bend. Interested in volunteering on this development? Cydney is your girl! Her contact info can be found below.


cydney corwin
community outreach coordinator
americorps '17

Want to reach out to Cydney directly? Email her at NR@habitat-sa.org

Take action for housing advocacy

Every voice can advocate and help more families build strength, stability and independence. Take a few minutes of your time to let your representatives know you stand with the families partnering with Habitat to build a better future.

Housing finance reform
Use your voice today to ask leaders to support reasonable U.S. housing finance system reform.

Put an end to predatory lending
Help us ensure that loans should be fair to both borrowers and lenders by taking action now.

Solid Ground
Learn more about how we’re helping families gain access to the land they need to build a better future.

Act now: Save AmeriCorps
Protect National Service programs like AmeriCorps that are instrumental to our work by using your voice today.

Protect gifts that serve families
Help Habitat affiliates serve the greatest number of families possible through donated appraisals by taking action now.

Show your support for HOME
Help us continue to reach communities that need our help the most by showing your support today for HOME Investment Partnerships Program funds.

AmeriCorps Blog: Celebrating Volunteers & Women Build!

Volunteers are our life force here at Habitat. We could not complete our mission without them. This spring marks two major volunteer events here at Habitat Seminole-Apopka: Women Build and the annual Volunteer Appreciation Party.  Both of these events are new to me. While I have participated in a Women Build event, I have never had to help organize one. And again, while I have attended a Volunteer Party, I have never had to help plan one. But, thanks to some pretty amazing staff members, I had plenty of assistance and gained some valuable knowledge in planning special events! As an AmeriCorps member, you learn quickly how to think on your feet, because often you will be thrown into situations you have never had to handle. While this can be frustrating at times, in my opinion it has made me better at my job. As I stated earlier, it does help to have an incredibly supportive staff.

So, let’s start with Women Build. For Habitat affiliates across the country, the month of May is about celebrating women through Women Build. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Women Build is an event held every year meant to empower women and provide the opportunity for women to serve in their communities. I think that as women, we too often we underestimate ourselves and our abilities, especially in a male-dominated field like construction.  

This year our women builders raised more than $149,000 and about 113 people put in over 452 hours on one of our construction sites.  They did everything from putting up drywall to building exterior walls and hanging sheathing. Many women learned to use a circular saw, nail gun, and (for some) a hammer for the first time.  What was even more fun to watch were the friendships and encouragement between women who, in many cases, barely knew each other before their build day. These women are not only building up our community; their building up each other.  

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This is what all our volunteers do. They help to provide strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter here in Seminole County and Greater Apopka. So, on May 17th we celebrated all our volunteers and recognized a few of those who have gone above and beyond. We celebrated our Women Builds, we celebrated Mike and Kenny, construction volunteers that are on site every day and we celebrated Brenda for ten years of extraordinary service at our Restore.  But it was not just us here at Habitat that celebrated the volunteers!  The community came together to celebrate them as well: Sonny’s BBQ donated the food, the City of Longwood donated the space and several business donated gift cards and certificates.

I am so grateful to be a part of such a generous community. We have some of the best volunteers around! Thank you for helping us to accomplish our mission!


cydney corwin
community outreach coordinator
americorps '17

Want to reach out to Cydney directly? Email her at NR@habitat-sa.org

Changes happening at the ReStore!

Changes happening at the ReStore!

If you’re already a frequent shopper at our ReStore locations in Casselberry and Sanford, then you know that things are changing for us with each flip of the daily calendar! Not only do we have new donations rolling in every day of the week, but we’re consistently busy making changes to grow and improve, especially when it comes to our customer experience.

Local builders partner with Habitat for Home Builders Blitz 2017

Local builders partner with Habitat for Home Builders Blitz 2017

Local builders partner with Habitat for Humanity of Seminole County and Greater Apopka and a local family to build a new home as part of nationwideHome Builders Blitz. More than 200 families across the country will build strength, stability and self-reliance withsupport from professional builders and suppliers during the week of June 5-9.

AmeriCorps Blog: Accepting the Challenge

The month of March marks the first day of spring and with that comes every college student’s favorite time of the year: SPRING BREAK. Collegiate Challenge is an event that Habitats can choose to participate in every year and offers an alternative spring break option for students wanting to give back.  Habitat Seminole-Apopka hosted two weeks of Collegiate Challenge this year, with a total of 42 college-aged volunteers working eight days within our community to help build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter.

The first thing that I learned about Collegiate Challenge: It is A LOT of work.

We are required to provide them with a safe place to sleep, shower, and eat. Obviously, we also need to make sure that they have work to do and provide them with an enriching volunteer experience. While not required, we also supply them with enough groceries to get them started for the week. In summary, there is a lot of organizing and as one of my co-workers stated, “the next two weeks will be filled with a lot of ‘oh no’ moments.” While I definitely had quite a few of those moments, the entire experience was so incredible.

The second thing I learned about Collegiate Challenge: It is A LOT of fun.

I had a wonderful time working with our two teams and sharing different parts of our community with them. It was so much fun to watch their confidence grow during their time with us. Most of them started with little to no working knowledge of how to build a house. By the end of the week, they were framing walls as well as our regular volunteers! 

It was also wonderful to watch the team develop relations with each other AND our future homeowners! It's truly a special feeling to build a wall with the person who will be living in that very home.

The second team had the opportunity to work in our Neighborhood Revitalization community of Plymouth. All of the elders in the community came out to cook lunch for the 30 students working on sprucing up the Plymouth Community Center. At the end of the day, I can tell you that each student left the job site knowing that they had made an impact on the lives in that community. In fact, I attended the Plymouth Community meeting last night and they are still talking about that group and all the work they completed!

The third thing I learned about Collegiate Challenge: We host some pretty incredible students.

It was not that long ago that I too was a college student, so I absolutely understand the importance of spring break for most students. Forty-two students gave up their week of relaxation to come to Florida and do physical labor for a week. That is remarkable and something I think should be recognized. 

All of us here at Habitat Seminole-Apopka would like to once again thank the University of Mary Washington and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse for two incredible weeks!  We can’t build homes without the dedication of our volunteers.


cydney corwin
community outreach coordinator
americorps '17

Want to reach out to Cydney directly? Email her at NR@habitat-sa.org.

Juniper Bend & Arbor Bend Groundbreaking!

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On March 16th, we broke ground on the largest development in the history of our affiliate. As we do with all of our projects, we strive to have a positive impact not only on the families that partner with us but also on the community at large. Through revitalizing unused spaces, establishing partnerships with local community and government leaders, and bringing more engaged citizens to an already well-established neighborhood, Habitat Seminole-Apopka strives to keep the focus local and bring people together in the spirit of cooperation and fellowship. 

We have been building homes in Apopka for 25 years and we are proud to be leading the effort to build 58 single family homes here in Apopka.  In partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando, Orange County, Florida, and Homes In Partnership, Inc., 58 affordable homes will be built in the South Apopka community. Habitat Seminole-Apopka's Juniper Bend development will feature 24 single-family homes and Habitat Greater Orlando's Arbor Bend development will feature 34 single-family homes. 

This public/private partnership consists of four entities and all intend to assist in the creation of affordable housing.  Together in this collaboration, we work to build walls, but never barriers. We work to foster alliances, but never hostility. We work to support both the whole and the sum of its parts. At Habitat, we work to build all of us up, one family at a time, and we're thrilled to have this chance to work with the many different types of members of the Apopka community.

Our shared vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live.  Habitat creates an equalizing force and provides a proven program- offering a hand up to become successful homeowners. We are honored to partner and build with this community on our largest planned development of safe, decent and affordable homes!


penny seater
executive director
habitat for humanity of seminole county & greater apopka

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

JANET

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

taylor

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.

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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.