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Tears flow at new Habitat home dedication

PALMETTO — Christina Sutor wasn’t supposed to be the one crying, but she couldn’t help it.

The tears started flowing when she saw about 100 people join hands and bless the new home of Angela Buckner.

“She has a big heart,” Steve Sutor said of his wife, a New York Life insurance agent who was Buckner’s mentor and helped her secure the 97th Habitat for Humanity home in Manatee County since the mid-1990s.

Buckner and her three children were one of three families whose new homes were dedicated Sunday at Washington Park in Palmetto, at the intersection of Second Avenue West and 25th Street West.

Although Buckner and the other families couldn’t stop smiling and running through the rooms, Habitat for Humanity volunteers, many who attended the dedication, were the ones crying and getting choked up.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” said volunteer Jack Shaw, of Bradenton, who helped the families with everything but the roofing over the past 14 months. “This is what makes it all worthwhile.”

Bill Null, also of Bradenton, one of 100 Habitat volunteers county wide, wore his Habitat shirt to the event.

“Whatever is needed, we do for them,” Null said.

Shaw stood in the background, receiving payment for all the work he had done — in the form of excited faces and voices.

“To see the look on the faces when they get the keys to their homes is tear-jerking,” Shaw said.

Mike Pascuzzi, owner of the River Club Golf Course, also got emotional talking about his first-time sponsorship. A friend, Bill Pretyka, had told him about Habitat.

“We had 75 people from River Club who volunteered,” Pascuzzi said. “This is a very worthwhile cause.”

As the 94 Habitat homeowners before them, Nos. 95, 96 and 97 have tough life stories to tell.

Buckner lived in a two-bedroom apartment in a rough neighborhood and her children had trouble sleeping. One bathroom for three kids is rough, said Buckner, a medical assistant for Total Family Foot Care.

Tereso and Silvia Carmen, who have four sons ranging in age from 8 months to 14 years, were able to stay on track even though Tereso lost his job and had to find another. The Carmens had been renting a home for 10 years, but it fell into disrepair with rats, broken windows, faulty plumbing and nonexistent air-conditioning, said Diane Shoemaker, family services manager with Habitat for Humanity.

The third homeowners, April and Eric Gates, once found themselves in need of shelter at the Salvation Army. But April Gates recently completed her certification in cosmetology from Manatee Technical Institute and Eric is a product control officer for Tropitone Furniture Company.

These three families, who gave of their sweat during construction, will soon move in to their new three-bedroom, two-bath homes with market values of $110,000, Shoemaker said.

The homeowners each got a 100-percent home loan financed at zero percent interest by Habitat for Humanity, and their monthly payments are about $500, Shoemaker added.

They also had to meet three criteria — have a need for housing, have an ability to pay the mortgage and have a willingness to partner in the construction, Shoemaker said.

Habitat for Humanity also can work with families who have $1,200 to $1,500 of “bad debts,” Shoemaker said.

A small downpayment is needed for the loan, which runs either 25 or 30 years.

For those interested in applying for a Habitat for Humanity home, Shoemaker can be reached at 748-9110, ext. 105, or at dshoemaker@manateehabitat.org.

Richard Dymond, reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.

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