Manatee Habitat for Humanity home dedication Saturday

vmannix@bradenton.comJune 7, 2013 

ELLENTON

The newest house at Hope Landing is almost ready for occupancy and Ana Reyes can't wait.

"We're counting the days until we move in," she said.

An attractive one-story four-bedroom, two-bath home, it resembles the eight others in the small Manatee Habitat for Humanity community of attached villas with its cream-colored walls, metal roof and lush landscaping.

Yet there is something very different about the home at 1647 38th Ave. E.

More than bricks and mortar went into it.

So did a lot of love.

It was built by women volunteers for the hard-working single mother of five children, ages 3 to 16.

"The courage, the energy, the desire of these people to help impacts my life," said Reyes, a 34-year-old native of Honduras.

Saturday's noon dedication, a tradition since Hope Landing's 2010 groundbreaking, will be poignant.

"This is like family," volunteer Pam McNeel said, putting the finishing touches of paint on the living room wall. "This gal is such a great lady with wonderful kids. I wanted this for her."

That sentiment applied to the more than 200 women who helped out since construction began in August.

"To be able to do this for someone, starting from a concrete slab from the ground up, is amazing," said Margaret Estes, another volunteer. "This is magic."

No experience was required.

"I'd never used a saw or a drill, but it empowers you," Maggie Zeiner said, handling a paint roller. "You

realized what you can actually accomplish."

Like helping with the foundation and roofing.

Laying block for the walls.

Doing the interior and exterior framing.

Hanging doors.

Putting down sod.

You name it, women had the biggest hand in it, especially the 20 or so regulars.

Up to this point, Hope Landing construction had been a largely male volunteer operation.

"It was a new dynamic," said Ogden Clark, the Habitat volunteer coordinator. "There might've been a guy leading the crew, but the women did it. It was cool to see.

"In the process, somebody who maybe didn't have confidence or knowledge, they became as confident as the men we have out there."

Reyes did her part painting, hammering nails, etc.

She also helped with Hope Landing's other homes during the past two years on top of working two and three jobs, including teaching children with disabilities at Easter Seals while putting in 300 hours sweat equity and building up an escrow account as part of a qualifying process.

"All the homeowners have to do sweat equity hours because this is not a giveaway program," said DiDi Hager, Habitat family services manager. "Ana is a busy mom, an incredible lady of strong faith and has done more than was expected of her."

So have these women.

Not only did they build her a house, they pitched in on its fundraising.

Between the Manatee Habitat Women Build Founders Club, Simonsen Foundation, New Village Church, Jim and Linda Crouse Foundation and others, $85,000 was generated for the $100,000 home.

"A lot of people contributed to help make it happen," Hager said.

Reyes is forever grateful.

"Mi casa es su casa -- my house is their house," she said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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