Community stakeholders gathered to welcome Antoinette Edwards and her sons, Josiah and Jylohn, to their new home on East Bay Street.
| 11:46 a.m. March 17, 2021
West Orange Times & Observer
As Antoinette Edwards and her sons accepted the keys to their new home, reality began to set in that she was officially a first-time homeowner.
Edwards and her sons, Josiah and Jylohn, stood on the front porch of their little green home on East Bay Street in Winter Garden, throwing their hands in the air out of excitement as they received applause from those in attendance.
It marked a major milestone for the single mother. West Orange Habitat for Humanity staff, volunteers, donors, sponsors, fellow homeowners and other community stakeholders gathered Thursday, March 4, to celebrate Edwards’ homecoming and tour her new house.
Key donors recognized at the ceremony included the city of Winter Garden, Hope Church, Miller’s Ale House, Treasure Title, AdventHealth, Pilars, Wells Fargo, Publix Super Market Charities, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, and home sponsor The Bond Foundation.
Edwards said before partnering with West Orange Habitat for Humanity, the goal of having her own home for her family seemed unreachable. She, Josiah and Jylohn have shared a bedroom in her mother’s house for years to ease some of the stress and hardships they have faced. Now that the boys are getting older, that room has become increasingly overcrowded.
“Sharing the same space has become quite difficult for us,” Edwards said. “I always tell my boys, however, that things will get better and that God will bless us with what we need in due time. And I have to say that our blessing has come through Habitat.”
Edwards had heard of West Orange Habitat for Humanity and how the organization has helped families in her situation in the past. She even completed an orientation a few years ago and has been consistent in updating her application and following up.
Last year, though, her intuition led her to the Habitat ReStore to show interest and leave her contact information. She was soon notified to come in for another orientation. A month later, after all her documents were submitted, she received a call saying she was selected as the next Habitat homeowner.
“After I was selected, I was excited of what was to come,” Edwards said. “I agreed to be a partner by committing to completing sweat equity hours with an opportunity to help build not only what would possibly be my home, but I also had the opportunity to help others with their homes, which was very rewarding.”
“I always tell my boys, however, that things will get better and that God will bless us with what we need in due time. And I have to say that our blessing has come through Habitat.” — Antoinette Edwards
With any Habitat for Humanity home, the new homeowner is required to put in 300 hours of sweat equity and attend homeownership and financial literacy classes, put a down payment on his or her home, and pay back an interest-free mortgage.
West Orange Habitat for Humanity has been working with the city of Winter Garden to address the need for affordable housing in the community with the newest group of three single-family homes located in east Winter Garden. This partnership, Habitat staff said, provides the opportunity for low-income families to purchase their first home.
Winter Garden District 3 Commissioner Mark Maciel said Central Florida has one of the lowest rates of affordable housing per capita in the country, and thousands of families are caught in the crisis.
“Home ownership is a key indicator in determining the financial success of a generation,” Maciel said at the ceremony. “These are the things that transform a community — building generational wealth through home ownership. West Orange Habitat has been a keystone in these efforts for the city.”
Edwards said the path to homeownership has been tough — it took hard work, commitment and patience — but it’s also been rewarding.
“My boys and I feel like we have gained an extended family, to say the least,” she said. “My mentors, the partners, volunteers and everyone in between have genuinely shown much-needed support and care to my boys and I, whether it was by way of a kind word, an inspirational message or just checking in to push me through the day. … We are forever grateful for you.”