Women volunteers for West Orange Habitat for Humanity gathered together in Winter Garden on Saturday, April 30, for the Women Build 2022 event.
“I cannot tell you how important it is that each of you have taken some of your time and energy and all that’s within you to put those nails in those walls,” Treasure Title President JoAnne Quarles said. “I have witnessed some of the former owners and some of the other residents that we have, and I’ve talked to them. Their stories of how they got to this place and what they had to go through to get to this (are) unbelievable. … If you ever want to know, join one of our committees of Habitat and you should learn. It will give you great compassion for those.
“Families should never have to decide within a safe place to live and things like insurance, healthy food, necessary medicine,” Quarles said. “Everyone deserves to build a foundation for a stable, healthy future for themselves and their families, and I know personally that these families want that foundation and those families that I've worked with before, they have that now, here, because of West Orange Habitat. No matter who they are or where they live or how much money they earn. This is why we are here ladies, and I thank you for that.”
According to Quarles, prior to the pandemic, more than 17 million U.S. households were paying half or more of their income on a place to live. That’s one in six Florida homeowners.
“At West Orange Habitat for Humanity, we know that a family should never have to spend more than 30% of their income on a home,” Quarles added. “We understand the complexity around the cost of the home and we also know the struggles, the stress and the pain of too many families in our community.”
Winter Garden Mayor John Rees was present at the construction site.
“The very land you are standing on for these homeowners was donated by the city as we continue to partner with Habitat building safe, decent and affordable housing for all,” he said. “When these four (homes) get through, we are going to have nine homes here in Winter Garden. That’s why we are excited to welcome these new homeowners as residents of the city of Winter Garden and look forward to the day we can celebrate with each of them as they receive keys to their new homes.”
New homeowners Tiffany Mejia and her daughter, Alize, are very grateful to see so many people helping them build their new home.
“This is our first home, our first chance to have a home,” she said. “To me this means to be able to put the keys in my door, our home. To be part of something that I know I always searched for, to be part of something that I know I always wanted.”
For Christina Carbajal, the third time was the charm, as she attempted to apply for Habitat two more times before having the courage to turn in the paperwork on her third try. Carbajal has three children: Luis, 18; Lizzet, 17; and Leila, 8.
“Habitat means a lot to me and my children,” she said. “I took a leap of faith, and by His grace I am here today.”
Shannon Ligon has been coming to the building site every other week as of late. She and her daughter, Neirah, 7, are excited to see their home completed.
“Today you are helping finish what soon will be my home, for me and my daughter,” she said. “I have always been a dreamer. I dreamed of graduating high school, and I did that. I dreamed of becoming a mom to a beautiful baby girl, and I did that. … Today all of you are helping yet another dream of mine come true, to become a homeowner.”
The owner of the fourth house has not yet been selected.
The Women Build 2022 was comprised of two shifts, morning and afternoon, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The West Orange Habitat current total amount funded for the event as of May 1 is $96,193. The goal is to reach $100,000.
“We always talk about men, so it’s always nice to see a bunch of women doing just the same,” Mejia said. “Showing that we can, just as well as they can.”