Seven-year-old Torriah Hunter had to be lifted up to cut the ribbon draped across the front door of her new house during the dedication ceremony Thursday, July 2. With pink scissors in hand, she concentrated on her task while her family looked on.
Torriah; her 8-year-old brother, Torrance; and her mother, Ursula Hunter, are the recipients of the latest West Orange Habitat for Humanity home, built on 10th Street in Winter Garden. The trio is ready to make many memories in the 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home.
“This (new) house means everything to me,” Hunter said. “It’s a dream come true. … The most important thing that I (have looked) forward to the most is being able to sit at the dining room table with my family, something I haven’t been able to do.”
The single mother isn’t the only one in her family who is anxious to make this house a home.
“(My kids) are so excited,” Hunter said. “That’s the main thing, seeing the smiles on their faces because I did this for them.”
The pale green, two-story home is the third of three West Orange Habitat has built along Green Oaks Row. When Hunter moved in several weeks ago, she joined her two neighbors, Shellonda Hill and Victoria Grace, also Habitat homeowners.
The dedication program included Hunter’s family, friends and community members. Several speakers addressed the crowd, including Ray Holden, president and COO of Miller’s Ale House, which sponsored the construction of the house.
Winter Garden City Manager Mike Bollhoefer was pleased to welcome Hunter and her children to the neighborhood, which he said is in the planning stages of a revitalization program.
“It’s going to be a magical, incredible process,” he said.
Houses like the ones on Green Oaks Row are just one part of the transformation. West Orange Habitat has another home under construction around the corner from these and two more planned on East Bay Street and Dunbar Avenue.
Hunter introduced two new Habitat families who are working toward owning their own home — Vaquoda Bradford and her daughter and Antoinette Edwards and her two sons — and told them: “Stay focused, stay encouraged and don’t let anything discourage you.”
New Habitat homeowners receive several presents at their house dedication, and Hunter was gifted with a handmade cutting board, Bible, American flag and pink tool kit. Holden gave her a stack of gift cards to the Ale House; and Fred Borsoni made a green Adirondack chair, which he does for all home recipients.
Hunter has it on her front porch next to her dining room window and door.
The Sanford native has lived in Winter Garden for 18 years and is grateful she can remain in the city. She has been living with close friends in Winter Garden, the three of them sharing a bed in one room.
Prior to occupying the home, Habitat residents must invest 300 hours toward homeownership by helping his or her home and others, attending financial literacy classes, working in the ReStore and speaking at events. Children who get good grades can have those converted to hours, too, so they can feel they contributed toward their home.
“I put the pressure on my kids,” Hunter said. “‘Do you really want to know how you can help me get hours? You have to get good grades.’ And they were so excited to help. Their report cards were absolutely excellent. I got 25 hours total from them. I’m so grateful for that.”
Hunter was earning hours long before her house was started; she put in a great deal of work on her neighbors’ houses.
She has earned hours one weekend at a time. She has pushed brooms, dug in the dirt with shovels and swiped paint brushes for hours. On a family-and-friends day, she moved even closer to her 300-hour goal.
“I just want to thank everyone who (has been) invited in my home, in this project, from Day 1,” Hunter said. “Anyone who laid hands, anyone who prayed, who gave a hand up. And I want to thank my Habitat family. If I hadn’t met them and found out more about their organization, I wouldn’t be here right now. I’m just grateful to them for helping people in need. I never really realized people like that existed.”
West Orange Habitat for Humanity Inc. is part of a global, nonprofit housing organization operated on Christian principles that seeks to put God's love into action by building homes, communities and hope.