Jackie Reynolds accepted the keys to her new home from West Orange Habitat For Humanity in September 1997. Now, just more than 20 years later, she’s receiving her mortgage-payoff letter and the satisfaction of knowing she owns her own Winter Garden home.
“It’s a good feeling,” Reynolds said of paying off the mortgage. “I’ve done some good things in life, like my children. … I went back to school and finished that. But, to have my own house. At 53 years old, to think I would ever own my own house, that’s a big, big accomplishment.”
Two decades ago, Reynolds and her five daughters, ages 6 to 15, were living in a small, crowded house in Winter Garden that she described as being in poor condition. She applied for a Habitat house, never expecting to be selected.
After she was named a future homeowner, Reynolds, with the help of family and friends, had to contribute 300 hours of work in construction and site clean-up called sweat-equity hours. St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, in Orlando, provided numerous volunteers.
“This house means so much to me (because) it’s not just a house that construction workers built,” Reynolds said. “I helped on the construction, I helped put up the drywall, I helped with putting my windows in. I did some painting, and I even went up on the roof to help.
“I actually built my own house,” she said.
It was in this four-bedroom, two-bath home that Reynolds raised her five girls. It was here that they shared Bible studies and movie nights.
And it is where Reynolds resides today with three of her five daughters and four grandchildren.
“It’s been really good times here,” she said. “This house is like, you can move out of the house and you can live your life, but if you ever need to come back, the door is always open.”
Reynolds admits it wasn’t always easy to make the monthly payments. She praised her mother, Odessa Reynolds, for coming through for her on more than one occasion.
“Until I got back on my feet she would always help me,” she said. “She was my backbone.”
The homeowner is on solid ground, working at Pacific Uniform Service, in Orlando. She transferred her church membership to St. Luke’s after discovering the kindness of the people. She earned a two-year Associate in Science degree in human services.
Reynolds said she plans to get more involved in Habitat and help build homes in West Orange County.
“I have just been so blessed with … getting a home,” Reynolds said. “And when they gave me the keys to the home, I was just so excited. I was like, I have a home now. And my kids have a home now. They have their own rooms and can play in their room.
“It can go from generation to generation, and that’s a big accomplishment,” she said. “I’m really, really full of joy. I still cannot believe it. It’s like a dream. But it’s mine. It’s a good feeling to own your own house.”
Nearly 30 families are repaying their Habitat mortgage, said Marilyn Hattaway, director of development for West Orange Habitat For Humanity.
“Jackie’s accomplishment is one we’re all proud of,” Hattaway said. “It sends a message of success to our volunteers and donors and, most of all, (those 30 families).
“And while they are repaying that no-interest mortgage, families have the benefit of more spendable income for insurance, transportation, food, education, child care and medical care,” she said.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.