Twenty-five years ago just a handful of volunteers built the first Habitat home in West Perrine. It was an exciting time and we were literally operating on a wing and a prayer.
As Miami Habitat’s first president I can tell you we started with nothing. No land, no money, no volunteers and really no experience. But we had faith and as a Christian ministry we prayed. God has provided everything we needed all through the years. We have raised and spent millions, we have engaged tens of thousands of volunteers and we will finish our 1,000th home in the next few months.
The blessings that the homeowners have received have been life-changing. We are thankful for the volunteers who have given endless hours and the churches, individuals and corporations who have given money.
The community of Miami-Dade has seen all this and marveled at our dedication, our servanthood and our love for our neighbor.
Habitat has truly changed lives. Habitat homeowners have been so grateful and thankful, this has inspired and touched the hearts of thousands of volunteers. I know they have touched my heart. Think of it. Why would so many give up many days to build a house for someone they just met? And this is hard work, nailing, hanging drywall or working on a hot roof putting down shingles.
The answer is simple. These volunteers have compassion and many are Christians who literally believe in serving someone in need. They believe that it is better to give than to receive. Volunteers are served lunch and receive a T-shirt. But they are rewarded in a much richer way that cannot be measured.
Miami Habitat is the sixth-largest affiliate, out of more than 1,000, in the United States. We have built the largest Habitat subdivision, Jordan Commons with 187 homes, in the country. When Hurricane Andrew hit South Dade we had built 27 homes. None received any significant damage. We had built these homes with love, and they withstood Andrew. We are thankful for all of this.
We are also thankful for Miami-Dade County’s generous help. When we started, with nothing, they gave us four lots in West Perrine to start building. Through the years they have been great partners with Habitat.
We also thank the many churches of all denominations that have given us volunteers, money and prayers.
Many pastors have opened our workdays with devotion and prayer. This is a true blessing.
There is a widespread misconception that we give away our homes. Habitat does not give away any homes.
Each homeowner must put in 250 hours of sweat equity working on their home or another Habitat house.
They must make a down payment of $2,000 and pay for the full amount of the house with an interest-free mortgage.
The interest-free mortgage is what makes it affordable.
One of the most frequent comments we hear from homeowners is : “I thank God and Habitat for this home, I’m so happy that now my children have their own bedroom and a place to do their homework.”
Some years ago we built a home for a woman with three children. She had no car but had a steady job. We found out that all four members of the family slept together in a king-size bed. A church supplied beds for them. This was a family that had their lives changed. And there are hundreds more similar stories.
After receiving the home, the homeowner’s joy is so powerful and poignant that it is contagious.
After being part of homeowners’ dedications for the past 25 years, I have never been able to retain my composure.
I share the emotions of the homeowners. I am not alone in this experience. This is powerful enough to keep many of us coming back year after year. It is what Habitat is all about — loving your neighbor and putting it into action.
I invite you to join us as a volunteer or contributor. But if you can’t help, remember to pray for us at Thanksgiving dinner and throughout the year. We at Habitat will be blessed.
Bob Rosasco is the founder and first president of Miami Habitat. Every year he leads a team of church volunteers to build a home.