Habitat for Humanity: Building Futures, Fulfilling Dreams

The Walton County Habitat for Humanity does not only help build homes, they also help build futures. For 20 years, they have been bringing the community together to build affordable homes for families in need. They are proud to say, "this is not a hand out, but rather a hand up" as they require home recipients to perform 250 sweat equity labor hours per adult in addition to attending credit and financial counseling to allow them to pay back the costs of their home over time.

Habitat for Humanity understands that being a homeowner is part of the American dream. In Walton County, the need for affordable housing is great and ever growing. The average cost of a home is greater than $180,000 with fair rent price valued at over $800 per month. Many working families spend up to 50% of their income on substandard housing, thus foregoing other vital expenses such as food, clothing, health care, or childcare and education. With the current population of the area projected to almost double over the next decade as a result of people looking for work, mostly in low-paying jobs, affordable housing will become even more necessary than ever. For families earning below the area's median income, their once distant dream of a stable life can become a reality when volunteers and the local community come together through Habitat for Humanity to build a family's future.

Once a family receives a home from Habitat for Humanity, they are able to refocus their income on their family's vital needs, and repay the cost of their homes in manageable, interest-free payments over time. Not only does this relieve an enormous amount of stress from these families, it also teaches them useful skills to allow them to be successful homeowners. 

One amazing example of the success of this program is seen through Teresa Schultz, single mother of two, who received the first home sponsored by Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation for families with children. In 2010, Teresa's husband passed away just weeks before she learned she was pregnant with her daughter. She worked hard as a Walmart cashier and cake decorator but struggled to make ends meet. Teresa learned about Habitat for Humanity through her best friend who received a home and she immediately got involved.

In 2011, Teresa learned it was her turn to receive her home. She was involved in the entire building process from the ground up, even digging the ditches needed to install plumbing. The labor she provided in the construction process taught her new skills, including her ability to perform repairs on her home when necessary. In the years since receiving her home, Teresa has continued volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation to help build homes, and futures, for other families. Today, she is Walton County Habitat for Humanity's full-time Family Services and Office Manager, guiding others through the process of receiving their home and living their dream, just as she once did.

To get involved or learn more about building futures with Walton County Habitat for Humanity, CLICK HERE. You can also read more about Teresa Schultz's story in this month's Corks for a Cause.


- Melissa Vidaurre

Published on Wednesday, July 27, 2016