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FUTURE HOMEBUYERS

Calesha Flores: Breaking a Generational Curse

The nomadic lifestyle of growing up with parents in the military, and no real sense of “home,” seems to have followed Calesha into adulthood as a mom of two daughters. After a job transfer from Ohio to Tampa, she got hurt and had to depend on a short-term disability of half her income until she could work again. Then, her rent DOUBLED, and she didn’t know what to do. What she did was move her girls to Orlando at a friend’s invitation, quickly realizing the friend did not own the home but was sharing with multiple people who didn’t want Calesha and her daughters there. In August 2022, the car became their home, with just a sporadic night in a hotel. Thankfully, a teacher referred them to a church, which referred them to a shelter. They at last had a room, hot meals, and support. Calesha worked onsite and received training to help her get back into the workforce, which she did! She now works hard in internet technical support and is thrilled to do so! Calesha applied to Habitat. She was denied at first, as she hadn’t been in her job long enough; but a fire started in her to buy a house and break a “generational curse” of moving often and renting. She and her girls agreed to “do this as a family,” save money, and live in the shelter until they could buy their own home. When Calesha reapplied to us, she was accepted. Their Habitat journey has truly been a family project. Her daughters have earned sweat equity hours by volunteering at the shelter and their grades are better than ever. Recently, they were excited to help choose the lot and colors for their future home. “It’s not really me doing it,” Calesha says. “It’s we!” When the family learned theirs would be a Women Build 2024 home, they were thrilled. The fact that groups of women will raise money for and construct their home is a great model for the girls; and mom can’t wait to work alongside the teams. Talk about women supporting women. With the support and all Calesha is learning about maintaining a house and managing finances, she is more than grateful for the opportunity. “It’s a hand up. It’s hard work,” she says. “You will work harder than you thought. Just don’t give up. It’s worth it!”

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Devora Slaughter: It's a Family Affair

“Mom, when are we going to stop moving?” asks Devora’s 12-year-old son. “We’re moving every year!” Devora has tried to explain to her three children that she can only rent where she can afford. Unfortunately, those places have been full of mold…and even bats! Trying to escape those unhealthy environments, as well as the rising rents, has led to constant moves. She has not escaped, though. She’s now paying a whopping $2,045 per month for a three-bedroom unit with mold. When Devora moved to Orlando in 2020, wanting to get her children out of Miami and leave an unhealthy family situation, she rented a house and found a job. With dreams of homeownership, she first applied to Habitat in 2021. As she didn’t meet the financial criteria, she was denied. Still determined, she took our Financial Academy classes and found the higher-paying position she has today as a custodian at a medical facility. She also improved her credit score and began to save money. Getting a raise within her first six months on the job, quarterly bonuses for a job well done, and working extra hours, sure helps in that regard! With her homeownership dream fueled by stark memories of living in a Miami shelter with her kids, Devora reapplied to Habitat. She was accepted in our Homebuyers Program in May 2023 and began her sweat equity hours. Emergency surgery stopped her short in July, with a three- month hiatus from work, and she credits the Habitat team and her kids for encouraging her not to give up. Devora’s children not only inspire her, but the two older ones have helped earn sweat equity hours by laying sod, painting, working community hours, and getting A grades. “It’s a family affair,” she says. “They are happy. Finally, we won’t have to move anymore!” The fact her future home is being built by Women Build 24 teams thrills Devora to no end! She can’t wait to meet and work alongside everyone, as her job allows, and wanted to make sure it wasn’t too early to tell you… “I want to thank the Women Builders ahead of time for everything!”

Kashima Wilson: “You guys saw something in me. Now, it’s up to me!”

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Kashima is a loving mother, enthusiastic employee, and hardworking woman driven to learn new skills, advance at work, and provide for her daughter. She was a teen mom to her now-24- year-old son and is divorced. On her own at 18, Kashima worked at a big box store. She married and had a daughter. Moving on to sales and marketing and then employee coordination, she’s been a Pharmacy Technician at a Specialty Pharmacy for six years. Kashima and her 15-year-old daughter are living in a very uncomfortable situation. Though she loves her job, her present salary is not enough to pay for a decent place for them. Kashima knew she had to act, so she applied to Habitat Seminole-Apopka. Denied at first, she took our Financial Academy. Once she improved her credit score and submitted complete paperwork, she was accepted. That was May 2023. This go-getter was determined to finish her sweat equity hours quickly, her daughter helping through A grades in school. She wanted to select a home on Leadership Point, and she did! Kashima had lost hope of ever becoming a homeowner. “This is an amazing opportunity that I’m blessed to have,” she says. “You guys saw something in me. Now, it’s up to me!”

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Jackie Pacheco: Building a Better Life

Jackie grew up in Puerto Rico in a “little town with a BIG family.” She came to Orlando for a better life, began to work at Burger King and lived with her aunt. Leaving the nest, she married, rented a home and had a daughter. They split after a year and Jackie and baby moved in with her sister’s family. That began a cycle of moving to seek an affordable rent. After 12 years, Jackie met someone, had a son, and started a career in banking. They were “on and off” for eight years and finally moved in together. After eight months she packed up the kids and left. The search for an affordable place began again. In 2018, Jackie began to work at what became First Horizon Bank, where she is now an Assistant Manager. Her daughter had moved out, so Jackie rented a place with her son for $900/month. (That rent is now $1,600.) She was also diagnosed with traces of cancer. Jackie learned about Habitat in 2022. Applications were closed, so she took our Financial Academy. After a wait, she applied and was accepted. Starting slowly on her sweat equity, then realizing she had to push forward, she has done so with a vengeance. That has enabled her to select the lot she wanted in Leadership Point and to recently finish her hours.

Jameca Laster: An Unstoppable Force

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Jameca dreamed of a home of her own and financial stability, something her family didn’t have as she was growing up. Going to a Work Force school, she was able to get her schooling and have a job at the same time and moved out on her own at 18. She learned she had to depend on herself and went back to school in the medical field. Jameca has been at Jewett Orthopedics since 2020. She entered a relationship and had a son. When the relationship ended, she was left paying the bills on one income…this time with a toddler. Her rent skyrocketed. She and her three-year-old now sleep in one twin bed at her sister’s house. Jameca found Habitat in 2023. She took our Financial Academy and applied when the opportunity arose and was accepted. Jameca has chosen her lot, finished her sweat equity hours, and is SO thrilled with our classes to help her succeed as a homeowner that she is retaking several on her own time!

The Niblacks: Hardworking Couple with a Dream

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Felicia and Kolby are a hardworking couple with an active three-year-old son. Felicia works in customer service for a roadside assistance company and aspires for a corporate position. Kolby is a pharmacy technician and aspires to turn his love of music production into a career. Felicia follows in her mother’s footsteps in her work ethic. Mom adopted Felicia as a nine-year old child, along with five other children, adding them to the four she had naturally. She moved her 10 children from New York to Florida for a better environment and never gave up. She taught them well; Felicia got straight A grades and the family led teen ministries. Kolby grew up in a military family in Virginia, with four siblings. After his dad died, the family moved to Florida. He and Felicia met in Orlando when they were both working in sales. Watching their parents struggle as they bought homes but couldn’t afford the upkeep, the couple wanted to buy a modest affordable home, pay it off, and pass it down to their children. They applied to a housing program, filled out paperwork, but never heard from the case manager. That made them skeptical of any trustworthy program in the community. Felicia heard about Habitat from her sister, and they applied. Accepted in 2022, they were understandably cautious, yet excited, and decided to trust God. They worked hard on their sweat equity, wanting to choose a home in the future Sanford subdivision, Leadership Point, where their neighbors will be Habitat families. As part of their required training hours, the couple took the Financial Academy class. They learned much from those and the mandatory classes about maintenance as well as mortgages, insurance and more. Felicia now understands so much more despite taking accounting classes previously. They look forward to the day we dedicate their Sanford home, and make their dream come true!

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Taylor Mathis: Breaking  a Generational Curse

When Taylor tells her story, the words strength, survival and miracle come to mind. She was 13-years old when her father died, her mother fell apart and took to the streets, and her older sister ran away with a boyfriend. Taylor and her two younger brothers, 10 and 3, ended up in foster care for three years, after which they went to live with an aunt. Instead of being in a loving, family situation, Taylor recalls vividly how bad it was. She “wanted out” at 16, and moved between Arizona, Ohio, and then Florida, trying to figure out what profession to pursue and what college courses to take. But, without parents for guidance, Taylor struggled to make choices. She began “couch-surfing,” moving from one friend’s home to another, but still she dreamed of bringing her two brothers from Ohio to Florida so they could all be together. After Taylor was able to bring her younger brother here, she began studying medical billing and coding, got a degree, and interned in the medical field. With all that inner strength, she still credits God for getting her through those times and putting her on a new path. That path includes the job she has held for the past two years as a digital banker and a place to live, made affordable with a roommate. Though that apartment ended her couch-surfing days, it’s still not suitable for Taylor, her brother, and the dog because they all share a bedroom. So, when an employee told her about Habitat Seminole-Apopka, Taylor’s curiosity was piqued. She immediately enrolled in our online Financial Academy to build skills for better money management and future homeownership. Before long, she applied and was accepted into our Homebuyer Program, and a new future began to take shape. Filled with gratitude for the opportunity to buy a home, Taylor is now saving money and can’t wait to reach 150 hours of her sweat-equity requirement, which is the threshold for selecting a lot for her future home. Taylor’s brother may enter the Navy or college, and big sister wants him to have a home when he comes back. A “generational curse,” as the family calls it, is about to be broken, and Taylor is at peace knowing she will never again be homeless. A new family legacy of homeownership and possibilities has begun. If that’s not the definition of strength, survival, and a miracle…what is?

Homeowners

Meet Sandra Smith – Grandma with a Goal!

Sandra left South Florida and her marriage about eight years ago and moved to Orlando. Things were going well until the daycare where she worked closed, her rent more-than-doubled, and her car became undrivable. Her only recourse was to live with a colleague and depend on a friend to drive her back and forth to the two part-time daycare jobs she found. That started her unstable living situation of renting rooms in other people’s homes. Sandra was able to save money and build her credit score, with the goal of buying a home. But when she sought mortgage approval on the conventional market, the loan amount her income allowed would only buy an “awful” house that would “set me her up for problems!” Happily, she was hired as an Orange County Public School substitute teacher at Apopka High School and learned about Habitat Seminole-Apopka from a coworker. She applied to our Homebuyers Program, was accepted, and began her sweat equity hours. She took our Financial Academy, in addition to her mandatory classes, worked on houses, helped at a food bank, and did everything she was required to do. Sandra is a true example that, “Things happen for a reason.” Originally choosing a lot in Apopka for her home, permitting issues delayed the start of construction. Understanding her frustration, staff offered her the choice of several sites in Sanford. Hearing an address on Holly Avenue, she immediately fell in love with the name. Sight-unseen Sandra said, “That’s the one I want!” And this is the home Sandra is thrilled to be buying and into which she’ll be moving her 15-year-old grandson from South Florida to give him a brighter future. She wants him to get a good education in Seminole County and then go to the University of Central Florida for Engineering. “I now feel secure about my grandson’s future. He will always have a place…and me too,” she says. “This is the best thing that could have ever happened! It was worth the wait!”

Keila Morales: A Safe Place to Play

Keila and her seven-year-old daughter Yanely paint a picture of mother and child with no worries as they sit on the steps of their apartment building. But when the little one wants to run and play, Keila won’t let her venture more than a few steps for fear of the kids in their neighborhood. That’s why Keila has dreamed of having her own home! When she first applied to us at Habitat Seminole-Apopka in 2021, Keila didn’t have enough income even to pay a modest mortgage. Our staff stayed in touch, however, encouraging her to talk with her employer about working overtime and potentially getting a raise for all her good work. The encouragement worked! Keila was afforded constant overtime hours and eventually received a raise. She knew exactly what she was going to do with the income, reapplied to us, and was accepted. She began her Future Homebuyer journey in May 2022 and, with her characteristic determination, completed her “sweat equity” hours by December, a mere seven months later! Working hard isn’t new to Keila, who has had to do so since she was 16 years old. She is also a soul who likes to help others and was able to do so in our Homebuyer Program by helping to build other homes in addition to her own, and by volunteering at community nonprofits as part of her required hours. “When they say, ‘sweat equity,’ they mean you sweat for real,” she says. Keila is beyond excited to be moving into her own new home, where her daughter will have a safe place to play. “I’m going to have a house for the first time in my 45 years!” she exclaims. In addition to that joy and the good feeling she gets from helping others, Keila is thrilled to have met new friends and “good people” during her journey. The fact that four other Habitat families will be her neighbors on Dixie Way is another bonus. There’s something special to be said about the experience and goals they share as they become part of the greater Sanford community.

Angel Saffold: Saved by Faith

Angel grew up in Apopka, with dreams of going to college; working with disabled children; and owning her own home for family gatherings, Sunday dinners, and children playing. But her life took a different turn. She got in with the wrong crowd, spent years involved in the drug culture, and had her first child at 15. Her dreams went by the wayside. Thankfully, Angel turned her life around in 2011 through her faith. By then she had six children and lived in a Section 8 home in Orlando yet began pursuing new goals and dreams. She took advantage of the Jobs Partnership program for job and life skills training and earned an AA in Medical Administration at Southern Technical College. Her externship at an orthopedic practice led Angel to the Orlando Health position she has held for five years. She’ll soon be able to work from home and is excited about future work opportunities at the hospital. The family’s housing situation didn’t follow suit, however, as the owner of the Section 8 house sold it without much warning. Angel and the four children who still lived with her hurriedly moved to a hotel and then to the Orlando Union Rescue Mission…all five sharing one room. Through Habitat’s partnership with the Mission, this hardworking mom took our Financial Academy to learn more about finances. With a credit score over 700 and improving, she applied and was accepted into our Homebuyer Program. While working a full-time job, Angel quickly completed her sweat equity hours. She was anxious to move her children out of the shelter into their future Habitat home in Sanford. Her heart, though, was in her hometown of Apopka. Amazingly, a 4-bedroom home in Apopka became available and everyone knew the perfect Future Homebuyer! Angel is thrilled to be moving near family, Apopka High School for her daughter, her son’s private school, and resources such as Quest for her disabled daughter. Angel can barely believe she is about to realize that dream of years ago. “Look at the yard. There’s space for my grandkids…And I’m a tomboy. I can cut the grass and will have a garden! I won’t have to worry about getting kicked out!” “I’m so appreciative,” she says about all the people who have helped her. “And I’ve prayed to the Lord. All this would not be possible without HIM.”

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LaTonya Riley: Even Cancer Can't Stop Her

LaTonya is an Apopka woman, through and through! She grew up in Apopka, lives there now, and is thrilled to be buying her forever home right there. Her son, Cameran, will graduate from Apopka High School this spring and won’t have to go far in his cap and gown. LaTonya works hard for Orange County Public Schools as a school bus monitor, truly loving what she does. Maybe not the teacher she once wanted to be, but her life took a different course. Those years ago, she was going to college, working, and raising a family. When her schedule became overwhelming, she quit school and focused on work and family. That led to 18 years of service at McDonalds and four children of whom she is very proud. LaTonya’s life totally changed in 2016, when her mother passed away and grief engulfed her. Not quite a year later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to quit work. Thanks to family, friends, and the faith she had to support her, she fought the battle bravely. In remission from that cancer, she was then diagnosed with another form of the disease in 2020 and had to have major surgery. Still fighting cancer, wanting to work, desiring something better for her life, and tired of her state of mind, LaTonya decided to focus on rebuilding her credit. That was Spring 2022, when she also began working for OCPS. She learned about our Habitat Financial Academy from a friend and longtime Habitat homeowner and enrolled in the course. LaTonya’s determination and new knowledge bore fruit and her score now nears 800! That friend also encouraged her to apply to become a Future Homebuyer…and the rest is history! Accepted into the Homebuyers Program in May 2023, she was filled with nervous excitement. “Be careful what you pray for,” she says, “you just might get it!” Off work in the summer, and with Cameran’s help, LaTonya quickly finished her sweat equity hours, all while not in the pink of health. “When they say sweat equity, I really sweated! I almost gave up, but I kept going, otherwise I wouldn’t be where I am today.” LaTonya says it best. “I’m blessed, excited, kind of nervous, and grateful…it still seems unreal. Every time I ride by, I say ‘Is that mine?’” She also wants people to know to “never give up on your dreams, it’s never too late, keep fighting, and keep God first.” “I’m proud of myself,” says LaTonya. “And I’m proud of Cameran, who is ready to move. He never once said he didn’t want to go [help on a jobsite].” LaTonya - we’re totally proud of you, too!

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