CRESTVIEW, Fla. – With members of the community surrounding her, Rosalind Cruz reached out a hand and gratefully accepted the keys to her new Habitat for Humanity home. Holding back her emotions as much as possible, she said two heartfelt words to the group gathered who made her dream a reality.
“Thank you,” said Cruz, as she looked around her new dining room. “Thank you to everyone here and all the volunteer hours you donated to help make my dream come true.”
Cruz’s home was dedicated by Habitat for Humanity of Okaloosa County in Crestview, Friday, June 2, marking the 58th Humanity home built by the organization. Habitat for Humanity helps connect low-income residents with homes sold at no profit, with affordable-rate mortgages. The homeowners help build them, and are required to contribute at least 300 hours of “sweat equity.”
Cruz, who will live in her new home with her mom and pets, was not alone in putting in hundreds of sweat hours into the build. Along with sponsoring the home, volunteers from Gulf Power pitched in to get the home built, with employees from the energy company donating more than 200 volunteer hours, while more than 450 other volunteers from across the community worked over 2,100 hours to complete the home.
“This is all about unity in the community,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson. “This is about us coming together as a company, along with our community partners to give a ‘hand up’ and be able to help a family in need to make their life better.”
Nitsi Bennett, Habitat for Humanity of Okaloosa President and CEO, agreed, and said the homes not only transforms the lives of the family, but also the community.
“These homes and neighborhoods are the life blood of our communities,” said Bennett. “In this case, we were able to help a family that lived in deplorable conditions and help them invest in homeownership and become part of the Crestview community.”
As a symbolic gesture of a new beginning and setting down roots in her new home, Cruz joined others in her front yard to help plant a Crepe Myrtle, a flowering tree seen by many as a symbol of prosperity and good luck.
“From the time my application was accepted to today when the I received the keys, everything happened so fast,” said Cruz. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be receiving such a gift. I can’t believe I am a homeowner.”
The gift will pay dividends by helping Cruz save money.
Gulf Power also donated $50,000 toward the building of the home, and made sure it was also designated a Gulf Power EarthCents home, a program that helps homeowner’s reduce energy consumption and save money on their power bill through energy efficient construction and appliances. EarthCents homes offer built-in quality and comfort, and are more efficient than homes built to standard building codes.
EarthCents Home is part of Gulf Power’s portfolio of energy efficiency programs created to help customers save money, use energy efficiently and help the environment. An EarthCents home has been tested utilizing the national standard HERS (Home Energy Rating System) protocol, meaning the home will be substantially more efficient than a standard home.
“This has been an exciting project for our energy experts who were involved in the planning before construction,” said DelaHaya. “We made significant recommendations to develop a customized energy-saving package that will benefit the homeowner for years to come.”
For more information on Habitat for Humanity, call 850.315.0025 or visit habitatfwb.org.