MANATEE -- Looking around her cramped two-bedroom apartment, Marleni Nunez looks forward to moving with her three children into a new three-bedroom villa she will soon be able to call home.
"I am very grateful to everyone who has helped, especially Habitat. They have helped people a lot to have their own home," Nunez said in Spanish.
Manatee County Habitat for Humanity has joined forces with local Methodist churches to help build 18 families a new home in Ellenton's Hope Landing Community. Construction is scheduled to be completed this month on the next unit.
A divorced mother of three, Nunez overcame adversity after not initially qualifying for the Habitat program.
"She is one of the ones that we have worked with that didn't let the door close. We like to keep the door open,"
said Didi Hager, family services manager. "We gave her the resources and she ran with it."
There were financial struggles that were originally getting between Nunez and her new home. Determined to qualify and provide a better home for her children, Nunez, originally from Honduras, took the night shift to get a dollar raise at Team Edition, the factory where she works.
After an almost two-year process, Nunez said, "It was worth it."
Nunez, who immigrated to Bradenton more than 24 years ago, didn't give up in her quest for a better quality of life for her family. Her sons Jose, 20, and Robert, 23, both have jobs of their own contributing to the household. Her daughter Azaria, 10, is an honor roll student at Prine Elementary School.
Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity is a Christian ministry that builds affordable housing worldwide. In Manatee County they have built more than 100 homes.
United Methodist churches in Manatee County have helped raise money for the homes in Hope Landing since the project's beginnings in 2010. For the Nunez home alone, $30,000 was raised to help with construction of the home she will purchase.
"Jesus calls us to love and serve our neighbors and Habitat provides a lovely opportunity to do that," said Mike Kennedy, missions team leader at Harvest United Method.
Harvest has helped to raise about $4,800 the past year.
Hope Landing is the first "green built" project developed by Manatee County Habitat for Humanity.
"It is a trend that some of the habitats are choosing," said Diana Shoemaker, executive director of Manatee Habitat for Humanity.
Homes in Hope Landing have been designed to be sustainable as well as affordable. Habitat is using energy-efficient construction techniques to create a home that will be more efficient and safer from the threat of storms.
Features such as a metal roof able to withstand 200 mph winds and non-impact windows that can withstand 130 mph winds are what will distinguish Hope Landing from other homes.
Nunez, along with her new neighbors, will also benefit from lower electric bills thanks to the insulation that enables the nearly 1,200-square-foot home to be cooled with a much smaller air conditioning unit.
Anxious to move in, Nunez has completed and will submit records of her last 16 hours of service this week. All Habit homeowners are required to complete 300 hours of work on their own home or neighboring homes. Of the 300 hours, 120 hours were completed by her sons and friends, as permitted by Habitat.