Cutler Bay

Affordable housing

Volunteers make a family’s dreams come true with Habitat ‘Blitz Build’

 

If you go

What: New Habitat Landings home dedication ceremony

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: 20400 SW 119th Ave., South Miami Heights


jsalo@MiamiHerald.com

While a dozen volunteers helped her apply primer to her new house Saturday, Dorothy Williams admitted she had never volunteered before.

However, this was before Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami volunteers gave their time to help build her family a house from the ground up in the South Miami Heights neighborhood, near Cutler Bay.

“We are very grateful,” said Williams, a nutrition counselor for Miami-Dade Public Schools. “Now we know how important it is to volunteer and give back.”

She and her husband, James Johnson, 40, live in a rented three-bedroom home in Liberty City. Since the couple has six children, they say they have had to improvise to make it comfortable.

In their new home, Johnson, an air-conditioning technician, says they will be able to send their kids to better schools and there will be less traffic.

The home, which will be completed Saturday, is one of 10 houses built by Habitat’s Miami chapter as part of its accelerated construction project, Blitz Build.

The new houses are the second phase of the community, Habitat Landings, which began with last year’s build.

For Williams and Johnson to buy their Habitat home, the couple had to complete 250 hours of work on their home. Habitat helped Williams get a no-interest, 30-year mortgage.

Habitat helps the new homeowners throughout the process by having them attend classes on home ownership and financial literacy.

“From the time I turned the application in, Habitat has been phenomenal,” Williams said. “I can call them and ask a question at any time.”

The 15th annual Blitz Build, which began Feb. 7, runs for two weeks and requires the help of more than 1,500 volunteers.

Some of the volunteers are teams organized by sponsoring organizations, but many are individuals who signed up individually, said Casey Angel, spokesman for the Miami chapter.

“One of the greatest things about a build is watching how people might have come alone but, through working side-by-side, it brings them together and builds this camaraderie,” Angel said.

Pablo Gonzalez, the president of Habitat Young Professionals of Greater Miami, and his team showed up at 7:30 a.m Saturday to begin work after spending the year raising funds. He says he doesn’t mind giving up his day to help because the project can change lives.

“Giving these people homes can help bridge the gap from low income to middle income,” said Gonzalez, 33. “For many of these people, all they have ever had are liabilities and debt. This may be the first time they have a tangible asset.”

At the end of the day’s work Saturday, Habitat hosts a dedication ceremony to give the new homeowners the keys to their homes.

Bob Rosasco, who founded the Greater Miami chapter in 1989, says the dedication is the part he looks forward to each year.

“You would think that after 25 years that I would get over it, but I still cry,” he said.

Williams says she cannot wait for Saturday to come and for her family to move into their new home, which will have a red door at the request of her 7-year-old son.

“We are beyond excited, and we know without the volunteers this wouldn’t have happened,” she said. “The two of us could not have built this house alone.”

The public is invited to attend the dedication ceremony at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Habitat Landings site, 20400 SW 119th Ave. At the dedication, homeowners and sponsors will have the chance to thank those involved.

Those interested in volunteering or raising funds for future Habitat events can visit miamihabitat.org.

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