Sophia and Horacio Quintana this month closed on their new home, the 35th house built in Hernando County through Habitat for Humanity.
The following morning, as sun shined brightly behind their cozy residence with an inviting porch and colorful flower garden, the couple and their young daughter, Eucebia, were guests of honor at a dedication ceremony attended by volunteer workers and other supporters from the community.
The Quintanas had waited nearly five months while the construction of their house progressed. Sophia had lived her entire life in a manufactured home on the site where the new house was built.
The family watched every detail of construction unfold, working alongside the volunteers. “So it isn’t really new to me,” Sophia said. But the adjustment to owning a house is.
Habitat for Humanity’s slogan is: “Making a difference one house and one family at a time.” Lynn Van Meter, director of community resources for Habitat, said the projects are life-changers for families selected to become homeowners with the nonprofit group’s help.
Each house Habitat builds — as many as three a year when donations are up — is intended to provide a positive step toward a family’s better future.
Some clients were living out of their vehicles, sleeping on a relative’s couch or living in substandard housing before receiving their house, Van Meter said. Often they are single moms who are employed but struggling to make ends meet.
“They don’t get a free home,” Van Meter said. The houses Habitat builds are turned over to the new homeowners with zero-interest loans. The recipients are responsible for monthly payments and agree to share a partnership with Habitat.
They must qualify based on HUD guidelines and meet financial obligations. And they are approved through a qualifying process that looks at several factors, including the family’s ability to make the payments. “They must have a regular income,” Van Meter said.
Habitat for Humanity of Hernando County is an affiliate of Habitat International. Local donations go toward hew houses in Hernando. And all volunteers are local. Each county organization must provide its own funding and receives no financial support from the national chapter.
Construction of the Quintanas’ house stalled briefly due to a lack of funding, so the process took a bit longer than usual. Ultimately Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative donated a $40,000 check to resume the work. “That check got the project completed,” Van Meter said.
Several local groups participating in the project were represented at the dedication. People Helping People donated food, the Brooksville Garden Club planted a garden in front of the house and Sons of the American Revolution gave the Quintanas an American flag.
“It’s a community effort,” Van Meter said. “We are always looking for volunteers.” For more information, visit the organization’s website at www.habitat hernando.org.