Four Winter Garden residents have reason to celebrate this holiday season — they have received the keys to their new homes and are looking forward to making many new memories with their children. West Orange Habitat for Humanity held a four-home dedication Tuesday, Nov. 29, for Shannon Ligon, Christina Carbajal, Danykqua Faulk and Tiffany Mejia, who are preparing to move into their new Criswell Court neighborhood off Center Street.
After several guest speakers and city of Winter Garden officials and staff spoke, each home recipient had her own ribbon-cutting ceremony. All four received a Bible, tool kit, cutting board, American flag, Adirondack chair and clock, as well as a letter from Sen. Marco Rubio.
“We want to thank everyone who makes our mission at West Orange Habitat possible, including all those who worked on these four homes,” said West Orange Habitat director Marilyn Hattaway. “We truly could not do what we do without each and every volunteer, donor and sponsor. We could not continue to build homes for families and families for homes without the involvement of our local community and churches, local businesses and organizations, and our local government all coming together for the common goal of creating safe, decent, affordable housing. Thank you.”
Wes Beacham, lead pastor of Hope Church Winter Garden, prayed over the homes of Faulk, Ligon and Mejia; Jose Rivera of New Hope Pentecostal Church prayed over Carbajal’s home.
Carbajal’s home was sponsored by Miller’s Ale House, and her mentors were Josh Weatherhead and Jessica Hall.
Carbajal works for Ace Hardware and has enjoyed mastering the power tools during her home-building process. She completed 226 sweat equity hours. Carbajal has three children, Luis, Lizzet and Leila.
“Before Habitat, our life consisted of moving around from place to place, until we finally moved into the house we are renting now, which is very overcrowded for me and my growing children,” Carbajal said. “I am so grateful for all the people who have helped me to reach my goal of becoming a homeowner. It is truly a blessing that will forever change the lives of my children and me. We are looking forward to creating new memories, having more space and creating a home that I hope will be passed on for generations.”
Faulk’s home was sponsored by Pilars Martini & Loft, and her mentors were Beacham and Crystal Davidson.
Faulk comes from a family of Habitat homeowners and knew firsthand the hard work and dedication the homeownership process takes. In just a few months, she had completed 189 of her sweat equity hours and all of her homeowner education.
Faulk works at the Maxey Community Center in east Winter Garden and is invested in her community. She and her two daughters, Ailani and Journei, are excited about this journey and the way it will change their lives.
“Before Habitat, my daughters and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment that was filled with mold and mildew, plumbing issues, and fluctuating rent prices,” Faulk said. “I feel truly blessed and honored to have been selected by West Orange Habitat for homeownership. Becoming a homeowner is going to bring peace and security to our lives that will change our lives forever. I know firsthand, having grown up in a Habitat home, my mom’s, in south Florida. It is my hope that this home will create stability for my children and for generations to come.”
Ligon’s home was sponsored by Wells Fargo and Publix Supermarket Charities. Her mentors were Pat Woodhouse and Helen Olivieri.
Ligon has one daughter, Neirah, and works at Orlando Health. She completed 237 sweat equity hours — more than what was required of her.
“The day I received the call from Habitat I was sitting in the breakroom,” Ligon said. “I jumped out of the chair with pure excitement. The whole day changed. I was so overjoyed and filled with pure happiness. … On Aug. 14, along with a group of my closest friends, we put up the walls of my home. Every Saturday I was at my home working, imagining all the dinners I would have with my daughter and how I would make this house a home. Then, here is the day that I can say, ‘Neirah, baby girl, this is our home, take this key, unlock the door and let’s begin our new journey.’”
Mejia’s home was sponsored by Empire Finish Systems, and her mentors were Pat Woodhouse and Josie Zarate.
She works as a recruiter for a healthcare company and enjoys getting to connect people to places where they can best serve and care for others. She and her daughter, Alize, are both artistic and creative and are excited to make this home their own.
“We have been living with family, and while we are very grateful to have a place to stay, this will be an opportunity for us to have a completely new journey together in a home of our own,” Mejia said. “Owning a home has been a lifelong dream of mine that was out of reach until Habitat. I can’t wait for the moment when I can put my own keys in my front door. That moment will be filled with new opportunities and a brighter future for me and my daughter.”
After the dedication, Mejia said: “Overall, it was overwhelming excitement. I can’t speak for everyone, but I think we all felt that foot-in-the-door-closer excitement!”
Habitat homes cost between $80,000 and $120,000 depending on the size. These are considered the raw costs for Habitat, Hattaway said, because Habitat leverages many in-kind gifts from local construction partners.
As a top nonprofit homebuilder in the West Orange community, the organization has partnered with volunteers, donors and Habitat homeowners to build, renovate and repair more than 45 homes. Habitat homeowners demonstrate a housing need, contribute sweat equity hours and agree to repay a no-interest mortgage.
West Orange Habitat, working in close cooperation with the city of Winter Garden, is addressing the need for affordable housing in east Winter Garden.
“With one in six families in the United States paying more than 30% of their income on housing, there is a tremendous need for affordable housing right here in Florida — and in our community,” Hattaway said. “We are answering that call one home and one family at a time.”