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West Orange Times & Observer Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 3 years ago

West Orange Habitat for Humanity hosts unique Rock the House fundraiser

At West Orange Habitat for Humanity’s Rock the House fundraiser, guests got to create their own table themes and corresponding outfits and décor.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

WEST ORANGE  Building homes and building relationships with people have something in common: They both require investment.

And as is the case with West Orange Habitat for Humanity and its partner organizations, they are committed to doing both.

That’s because Habitat’s goal goes beyond the walls and roofs of the homes it helps provide its partner families with. Habitat empowers families through first-time home ownership and provides them with the tools and resources necessary to be successful and self-sufficient.

West Orange Habitat has served the community for 27 years through building homes and empowering its partner families, but it rolled out a new event Nov. 4 that served as both a celebration of successes and a fundraiser to build more homes.

Rock the House is different from a standard dinner fundraiser in that it’s more casual, and depended on table sponsors and guests to bring the atmosphere to life.

“Everyone gets a table of 10, and each host together with their team comes up with an idea,” said Jim Gustino, president of West Orange Habitat, before the event. “We will decorate the table consistent with that theme, dress up and have fun with that. The food will all be consistent with the theme, and there will be a contest to assess who’s come up with the most impressive or creative table concept, costuming and all that stuff. … It’s a fun competition.”

Guests were encouraged to work together with their table mates beforehand to create their own themes, dinners and libations. The best displays were awarded with the Golden Shovel Table Awards.

Additionally, guests enjoyed live entertainment, live and silent auctions and plenty of opportunities to mingle and have fun. 

West Orange Habitat Director of Development Marilyn Hattaway came up with the idea, Gustino said, and the organization is thrilled to have been able to bring it all to fruition while spreading awareness of Habitat’s mission and policies.

“Rock the House is first and foremost the celebration of the successes we’ve had as a ministry in the last year and what we’ve been able to achieve and accomplish, and we’re looking forward to expand the impact of the ministry going forward — not only in east Winter Garden, but throughout our market area,” Gustino said.

Click here to see photos from Rock the House.



One of the organization’s most recent projects is a three-home community in east Winter Garden, called Green Oaks Row. Three families — each led by a single mother — have been selected to receive the homes and will invest 300 hours of sweat equity into both their home and the homes of others.

Gustino also hopes that Rock the House will serve as an educational opportunity for the community as to what the ministry does — and what it doesn’t do. Habitat essentially offers a “hand up, not a handout,” Gustino said, and partners with deserving, hard-working families to empower them in first-time home ownership. 

“We partner with folks that have jobs and decent credit, work with them to improve the credit and provide them with educational opportunities, counseling, financial management, budgeting and (how to) maintain a home,” he said. “It’s a lot of education, and they also commit to work on their job sites building their own homes and the homes of other Habitat partners. At closing when the homes are completed, they receive their homes at a 15% market discount off the top. We offer them a completely no-interest loan, so they’re paying in virtually all cases.”

Along with the celebration and education comes fundraising, which will help the ministry’s ability to continue expansion of its impact through acquiring more lots to build for more families.

Many Habitat partner families become volunteers after they’ve moved into their homes, Gustino said, and developing those relationships is part of what Habitat values most.

“It’s just so exciting to see a lot of these families move into these homes and these kids who have had to move from year or year or share a cramped bedroom have a room for the first time in their lives,” he said. “They’re able to decorate it any way they want to, they have a safe and quiet space to study and learn. … It has a ripple effect beyond just getting them into their home. … We’re about rolling up our sleeves, getting dirty, building homes, meeting families and their needs where they are and being humble and sincere about it all. That’s the heart of the ministry.”

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