Habitat for Humanity homes victims of burglary

ELLENTON -- Dawn Keen’s heart sank Tuesday when she was told thieves had broken into a Habitat for Humanity storage container that contained materials for her home.

They took two generators, an air compressor, two circular saws and several extension cords among other items from the locked container, according to the sheriff’s office. The thieves also broke into the home and stripped it of 750 feet of cooper wiring.

The overall damage, about $16,000, could delay the project up to two months, depending on when the wiring can be replaced and reinspected, according to Jim Frame, board president for Manatee County Habitat for Humanity.

Frame said his heart, and the hearts of staff members and volunteers, go out to the home owners who have been affected by the break-in.

“They are the ones who cannot be in their home at the time they are expected to,” Frame said. “Not to minimize the money we will have to spend to replace the stolen equipment, but at the end of the day, it’s all about Dawn.”

Keen, 39, refuses to let the crime bring her down. She said it was a dream come true when she learned the organization would continue the project.

She is looking forward to moving into her home in mid-May with her four children and pictures herself sitting on the porch and relaxing at the end of her work day as a dog groomer.

“I was heartbroken when I got the call that somebody did this,” Keen said, albeit positive. “I’m planning where my TV is going to go and my furniture. It’s exciting.”

But for now the home doesn’t have solid walls on the interior yet and the unfinished ceiling that had wiring running across it earlier this week serves as a reminder of the set back to her dream.

“I know it’ll all be OK,” she said.

The complex that the organization is building, Hope Landing, is expected to be finished by September 2013 and house 18 families in green-friendly duplexes. Construction began over the summer.

Bruce Winter, construction manager, said many volunteers were personally affected by the burglary; some have even donated their own money to the cause.

“For the volunteers, this is a lot of time and effort that they put in,” Winter said. “Money we would have spent on the family is being used for a storage unit.”

For now, work continues on the home, and Keen can’t help but think of the day she will share the home with her loved ones.

“This is all for them,” Keen said. “Knowing they will have somewhere stable to come no matter what.”

Those who wish to volunteer or donate to Habitat for Humanity can do so by calling (941) 748-9100, ext. 104 for volunteer information, and ext. 107 for sponsorships and donations.