WINTER GARDEN As new West Orange Habitat for Humanity homeowner Victoria Grace and her three children cut the ribbon to their new home, it signified the beginning of new chapter for the family of four.
During the home-dedication ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 6, dozens of WOHFH partners, volunteers and community members gathered to welcome Grace and the children to Green Oaks Row in east Winter Garden. It was a celebration of a yearlong journey Grace had embarked on with the organization, during which she put in countless hours of hard work to partner with it.
Grace is one of three single mothers to partner with WOHFH and work toward a home on Green Oaks Row. The Habitat for Humanity model for homeownership requires 300 hours of sweat equity from the homeowner, as well as attendance at homeownership and financial-literacy classes. Additionally, the partners must save up to put a down payment on their new homes and pay back an interest-free mortgage.
“The board works incredibly hard to make sure that we keep moving our mission forward to build more houses for those in need,” said Kenny Ermann, president of WOHFH’s board of directors. “Victoria has worked incredibly hard to get herself into this home. …The Habitat model for home ownership requires a lot of dedication form the homeowner. It’s not that they just get a home because they’re in need. They get a home because they partner with us.
“A little over a year ago this was dirt, and over the past year Victoria — while raising three children — has been coming out here almost every weekend and evening and working at our ReStore down the road to put in all those sweat-equity hours to work her way into this home,” he said. “This is a huge celebration for her and her family.”
Grace is currently working full time with a real-estate agency and serves with Mosaic Church. While doing that, raising her children and attending the required classes, she ended up putting in 342 sweat-equity hours. She and her family moved into their new, three-bedroom home on Saturday, Sept. 8.
She shared that during the past couple of years, her family of four has lived in various places and most of their time was spent in a single, small room of a deteriorating wooden house. They didn’t have hot water or a kitchen, so they showered at the Roper YMCA and ate at restaurants because she had nowhere to cook healthy meals. Additionally, with no room for beds, they slept together on the floor. But, Grace said, they didn’t allow those circumstances to cause them to lose sight of God’s plan for them.
“In 2013 I allowed fear of my circumstances to be stronger than my faith in God, and that got me nowhere — in fact, it made my life harder,” she said. “Lesson number one: Don’t let feat rule you. In 2016 I allowed my faith in God to be stronger than fear of the present circumstances and that saved my life. Faith…got me our of a toxic situation and into a living space that taught my family humility, gratitude, service and love. …Asking for and accepting help from others has required me to grow in courage and faith — the courage to be vulnerable in the sight of others, allowing friends and strangers to know who I really am in times of heartache, poverty, healing and in times of redemption.”
Mosaic Church pastor Terry Geter added that when his journey with Victoria began four years ago after a call for help, the church has come alongside her and watched her grow in her faith walk from then to now.
“She’s gone through a lot, she smiles after having gone through this story of redemption in her life, and she gets things done,” he said. “…She’s gone from being served to being a servant and I think that’s just such a tremendous testimony of her life. She could have a lot of excuses not to serve people, but she’s overcome all of those. That’s really awesome to me.”