April 09, 2010
While Rollins students, faculty and staff ordering at the Deli in the Marketplace know Gail Richardson for her easy smile, most would have no idea why she’s beaming from ear to ear these days. Sure, she loves her job at Rollins—she’s worked here for seven years—but what really has Richardson smiling these days is the prospect of moving into her new Winter Park home. Richardson is Habitat for Humanity’s most recent homeowner participant, a long and laborious process that’s proven to be no easy feat.
“I haven’t calmed down yet,” Richardson exclaimed, referring to the moment it was announced that the home Habitat was building at the corner of Denning Drive and English Court would very soon have her name on the title. On Saturday, March 20, Richardson arrived at the home she’d been helping to build for months. She had framed it, installed drywall, and painted, never knowing that one day this home would be hers.
The news came while Hal George, president of Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park and Maitland, was giving his orientation speech to the day’s volunteer team.
“This is a special day because we have this home’s recipient right here volunteering with us,” George told those in attendance. “This house has been assigned to Gail Richardson.”
With tears in her eyes and a renewed sense of hope in her heart, Richardson embraced her children. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. “I’m still not convinced it’s my house. It’s just so unbelievable.”
Richardson’s journey to home ownership began in July 2009 when her application to participate in Habitat’s home ownership program was approved—the first step in possibly becoming a Habitat home recipient. “Homes aren’t simply given away … it’s not a lottery system,” said Kassi Bernard, executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity. “Habitat for Humanity makes home ownership attainable and affordable to people for whom it may otherwise not be. Recipients still have to demonstrate that they can pay their mortgage and maintain the property.”
Home recipients also have to accumulate “sweat equity” in lieu of a down payment. Sweat equity is the term Habitat uses to define the 500 volunteer hours applicants must amass to complete the homeowner process. Of those hours, 275 must be put in by Richardson and her immediate family while the other 225 may be donated to her effort by other volunteers.
This is why Richardson’s colleagues at Rollins are so enthusiastically taking up her cause.
“Let’s help out one of our own,” said Dining Services Director Gerard Short, who is spearheading the effort. “We’re committed to helping all of our team members reach their dreams and goals”
Anyone at Rollins who would like to get involved may contact the Office of Community Engagement at 407-691-1250. Habitat can accommodate three to four Rollins volunteers each Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon. At this point in the building process, volunteers can expect to be either painting or landscaping.
In June or July, Gail and her kids will move into their three-bedroom home. With its deep gray hues, blue shutters and wrap-around porch, the house has a very polished and homey feel. Perhaps what will make this home most special for the Richardson family, however, is that with each nail hammered and paint brush swiped, it was built with the love and support of a community of people who strive for equality and opportunity for all its citizens.