Habitat for Humanity: 35 Years of building homes and dreams
When Habitat for Humanity began operating in Brevard County in 1985, few could imagine that 35 years later, more than 500 families would walk through the front door of their own home, built with their own sweat equity and the support of a community that truly cared about their neighbors.
The idea that became Habitat for Humanity first grew from Koinonia Farm, a community farm outside of Americus, Georgia, founded by Clarence Jordan.
On the farm, Jordan and Habitat’s eventual founders Millard and Linda Fuller developed the concept of “partnership housing,” centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side-by-side with volunteers to build decent, affordable houses. The houses would be built at no profit. New homeowners’ house payments would be combined with no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fundraising to create “The Fund for Humanity,” which would then be used to build more homes.
Today, Habitat for Humanity operates in all 50 U.S. states and in more than 70 countries and has helped more than 29 million people achieve strength, stability and independence through safe, decent and affordable shelter.
Families may find themselves in need of decent shelter due to a variety of circumstances, including unpredictable rent increases; overcrowded living conditions; damaged or dilapidated structures; unsafe neighborhoods; or, lack of access to land and affordable financing.
In Brevard, Habitat for Humanity locates available properties and negotiates the purchase of the land on which a new home will be built. A family is selected based on criteria that includes their level of need for better housing, their willingness to partner and work alongside Habitat for Humanity volunteers, and their ability to pay an affordable, zero-interest mortgage. Families own the home, and as such have a say in the design and layout of their homes, which can include number of bedrooms, kitchen layout, flooring, window treatments and indoor and outdoor paint colors.
New leadership, renewed vision
Recently, HFH Brevard County welcomed new executive director Anna Terry. Terry has an extensive background in international retail as a buyer and product developer for brands that include Nordstrom, Guess, and White House Black Market (Chico’s FAS). For the past year, she had been managing ReStore, the organization’s thrift store.
“Habitat is about helping families by giving a hand up not a hand out, and I'm excited about the opportunity to help make that happen in Brevard,” Terry said. “The executive director position feels like the perfect fit for my business acumen, along with my commitment to helping others, serving my community and making a difference.”
Terry’s immediate priorities include elevating the Habitat for Humanity brand in Brevard by showcasing the organization’s work in the community. She also wants to increase the number of donors and corporate sponsors, which in turn will allow more homes to be built for eligible families.
Honoring veterans, providing safe harbor
Habitat for Humanity of Brevard County honors the sacrifices the men and women who have served our country made in protecting our country and freedoms. It also understands that veterans are among the fastest growing homeless population in the U.S. and of that population, female veterans are growing even faster.
As a veteran-designated build affiliate, the organization has provided several veterans and their families with a home of their own, giving them the safety and security they deserve — and secured — on behalf of our nation.
First-in-nation Female Veterans Village takes shape
In 2018, Habitat for Humanity of Brevard established the first-in-the-nation Female Veterans Village in Cocoa. The enclave in the Diamond Square Redevelopment District will welcome six female veterans and their families. These are women who have faithfully served their country and who have incurred injuries that resulted in disabilities during service or encountered other circumstances that resulted in some form of housing instability or homelessness.
Two veterans have moved into the village and it is expected that four others will help build their homes in the next two years.
While Habitat has built several homes for veterans, this is the first time any of the chapters has grouped homes for a specific demographic and feedback from the homeowners has been positive. They feel safe and comfortable surrounded by fellow service members who share commonality and experiences.
The village couldn’t have been built without the support of corporate and community partners including The Home Depot Foundation, Leonardo DRS, Northrop Grumman, Center State, Next Era Energy, Pen Fed Foundation, Guy and Delores Spearman and State Farm, along with the city of Cocoa and the Diamond Square Redevelopment Agency.
Celebrating the past, setting sights on the future
In October, Habitat for Humanity of Brevard will celebrate its 35th anniversary serving the Space Coast. An anniversary luncheon kicks off the fundraiser on Oct. 15 at the Melbourne Hilton Rialto Place. The luncheon’s goal is to recognize the many people and organizations who have been a part of Habitat’s success and to raise needed funds to build more affordable homes for Brevard’s essential workforce.
During their anniversary year, the organization will also conduct several community awareness campaigns aimed at increasing its corporate and individual donor base, as well as enlisting the next generation of volunteers who will help build homes throughout the county.
“Millennials and Gen Z are acutely aware of their role in building community,” Terry said. “As more skilled and well paid young adults move to Brevard to work in our aerospace, technology and manufacturing sectors, they are looking for opportunities to volunteer with and donate to organizations that make a difference in people’s lives and we’re perfectly positioned to offer that.”
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