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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, May. 19, 2017 5 days ago

Habitat for Humanity home dedicated to Thaddeus Seymour

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The completion of the home marked a unique milestone for the organization, because it stands across the street from the first habitat home built in Winter Park back in 1993 for a Rollins College campus safety officer.
by: Tim Freed Staff Writer

A wave of emotions hit the Thompson family Saturday, May 13. LaWanda Thompson opened the front door and immediately lost her composure, crying tears of joy. Her family of five, with her husband and three children, were finally homeowners. LaWanda took a step forward on the dark brown hardwood floor into the fully decorated living room complete with a couch/bed, chairs, lamps and rug.

“There’s no words to say,” LaWanda said. “I’m just so thankful.”

The Thompson family was welcomed to their new home at 644 Lyman Ave., as Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park-Maitland celebrated the completion of its 53rd house.

The completion of the home marked a unique milestone for the organization, because it stands across the street from the first habitat home built in Winter Park back in 1993 for a Rollins College campus safety officer.

A plaque sits above the front door of the newest home — a tribute to a Winter Park resident many know and love.

The 53rd home was officially dedicated to Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park-Maitland Chairman Thaddeus Seymour as both he and his wife, Polly, were honored before an audience in front of the home.

The chairman also had a scholarship fund for Habitat families established in his name.

“None of us would be here if Thad wasn’t leading the charge,” Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park-Maitland President Hal George said. “We’re all so thankful to him for everything he has done.”

It marked an emotional moment for Seymour — a Winter Park resident who was instrumental in starting the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Winter Park.

“I have been in a career where you spend some time at microphones, and I have never in my life been at such a loss for words,” Seymour said. “This is the most powerfully emotional moment that Polly and I have shared with friends and neighbors.”

Service is something that’s become synonymous with Thaddeus Seymour. The 88-year-old first began an academic career as an English professor at Dartmouth College, where he became dean five years later. He went on to become the president of Wabash College in Indiana for nine years before coming to Rollins College in 1978 to become its 12th president.

Upon retiring in 1990, Seymour continued to remain engaged in Winter Park as a community historian and a beloved icon in the city.

Seymour gave that love back, hoping to create affordable housing opportunities in Winter Park for residents who needed it.

The completion of the first Habitat home, built by the Orlando Habitat affiliate, prompted Seymour and a group of residents to pursue their own Habitat affiliate.

They never looked back.

“We’re standing on the porch of our 53rd house,” Seymour said. “What a wonderful statement that is about Winter Park and its sense of neighbors and neighborhood.”

Seymour also highlighted his wife, who for some time provided the lunch for students working on Habitat homes.

“Polly has been a part of this from the very beginning, and both of us can’t thank our neighbors and our friends enough for this memorable and unforgettable occasion,” he said.

Seymour touched on a litany written by Archbishop Oscar Romero, which is recited at Habit for Humanity Board meetings.

“The litany says, ‘We cannot do everything,’ and there is a sense of liberation in that. This enables us to do something, and do it very well,’” Seymour said. “In my view, that’s what Habitat is — the something we can do to help our neighbors, be neighbors and make this town the wonderful community that it is.”

LaWanda Thompson stood on the porch of her family’s new cottage-style home with a spirit of thankfulness.

“We can share this story with our grandchildren, that this is our house and how it came to fruition all because of the vision of Habitat for Humanity,” she said. “When this house was built, this family was rebuilt.”

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