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Updated: 06/03/2012 08:02:10AM

Habitat volunteers raising the roof in Lake Wales

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Rosie Rodriguez, the future homeowner of this Habitat For Humanity home has put a lot of her time talent and energy into building her new abode. "This will be a handicapped access home and I have put well over 200 hours into the house," said Rodriguez.


Habitat For Humanity builds yet another home with help from all around, including Linda Staten from the United States
Department Of Agriculture. "Today I'm stapling roof insulation," said Staten.


Presenting the Volunteer of the Year Award during a recent breakfast Gala at Babson Park Elementary is (l to r) BPE Vice Principal Elizabeth Tyler and Christina Updike (Volunteer Coordinator), with Lisa Heilman, the recipient, in the center.


Kaitlyn Johnson assists Krista Davila with her Zombie make-up for the prom.


Lake Wales Deputy Fire Chief Perry Daughtry helps Grace Arbogast and Kylee Reyes put out a couple of fishing lines at Lake Wailes in an annual fishing excursion the LWFD takes with Hillcrest Elementary School kindergarten students. For most of the students, it is their first fishing trip, and firefighters volunteer their time to attend.


Charlie Gist, age 14, shows determination in his face during a drive.


And the dock has benches, a nice place to sit.


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It’s Saturday at the Ranchettes and a host of volunteers are hammering and drilling with the enthusiasm that comes from making someone’s dream come true. The someone in this case is Rosita Rodriguez, who found out last summer that her application for a Habitat for Humanity home had been approved.

“This is one of the best things, aside from the birth of my children, that’s ever happened to me,” Rodriguez said.

The house is being built on land that’s been in her family for a while, she said. When it’s completed, she will live there with her mother and two sons. Habitat is a helping program but not a giveaway, according to Julie Farish, director of East Polk County Habitat for Humanity. Those chosen for a home must qualify according to HUD standards. Recipients must have income adequate to pay a mortgage, and the monthly payment must take no more than 30 percent of their income. “You have to be able to pay for a home,” Farish said.

The advantages of a Habitat home are many. The volunteer labor saves a massive amount on construction costs. There is no interest on the mortgage. The homeowner who receives help from others is able to give back by volunteering a minimum of 350 hours; at least 20 hours a month.

“That may not sound like a lot, but for a person sometimes working two jobs, as well as caring for family, that’s a big commitment,” Farish noted.

Rodriguez said the process of volunteering and attending required classes starts soon after approval. For example, participants attend the Dave Ramsey classes, which focus on bargain-shopping, budgeting, figuring out what’s important in your life, and other topics to help you be a better homeowner, Rodriguez said. She’s also completed about half of her volunteer hours, and now is assisting in the construction of her own home.

The house will be a four-bedroom with two baths, Rodriguez said.

“You get to choose everything, including siding, countertops, roof and colors, which is nice,” Rodriguez said.

Farish said that there are periodic informational meetings for those wishing to apply for a home. At one last month, 180 people were in attendance. The final decision is made by the Family Selection Committee, which review sthe applications, does home visits, and verifies income.

The volunteers are a giving group, who often have no skills coming in.

“They learn on the job,” Farish said, and she noted that it is a good opportunity to learn building and home improvement skills. Certain tasks, by law, must be done by paid skilled tradespersons.

In Farish’s words, “We don’t build a house for you, we build it with you.”

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