pasco habitat for humanity

Habitat Pasco County Dedicates New Home During Pandemic

DADE CITY, Fla. – While COVID-19 has affected the way many do business, Habitat for Humanity of East and Central Pasco County has continued to build and sell affordable homes to families in need of a decent place to live during this time. Using sub-contractors instead of volunteers during the state shut down added some expense to the cost of building a new Habitat home. Once the state began to open up, Habitat has been able to bring small groups of volunteers to the jobsite to volunteer once again.

New homeowner David Gatz has a compromised immune system due to Multiple Sclerosis (MS), so making changes in how Gatz would complete sweat equity hours during COVID was a number one priority for Volunteer and Family Services Director Jere Ferguson.

David Gatz Closing. David Gatz signs closing paperwork at Larkin & Larkin Title Services
David Gatz Closing. David Gatz signs closing paperwork at Larkin & Larkin Title Services

“Sweat Equity is a critical component of the Habitat for Humanity affordable home ownership program, in that it allows the partner families to not only have personal investment into their program but it promotes the entire household to pay it forward as well.” Said Ferguson.  “Due to local social distancing restrictions in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic and in consideration of David’s own compromised immune system, our board approved adjustments to our sweat equity requirements to allow families to work remotely from home if necessary. In addition to attending homeowner classes and other online programs, David sent 100’s of thank you messages and letters to many of the volunteers and donors that worked on or made his home build possible.  David has made a commitment to continue assisting with data entry and remote office support moving forward beyond taking possession of his new home.”

Gatz has had MS for 17 years, but in the last few years, he has become legally disabled. Since having MS, Gatz’ whole life has changed forever.  While he daily faces many challenges, he maintains a positive attitude and consistently tries to reach new goals. Being able to purchase an affordable Habitat home is a dream come true.

Jere Ferguson, Family Services Director and David Gatz Habitat homeowner
Jere Ferguson, Family Services Director and David Gatz Habitat homeowner

“They’re smaller goals, but I am always trying.” Said Gatz. “I’m grateful for this opportunity with Habitat for Humanity and the USDA 502 program.  Both are allowing me to restart a huge portion of my life by buying this home.  I am incredibly grateful for each and every volunteer that participated during one of the tumultuous times in the history of our country. Jere, Habitat For Humanity, the volunteers, and the USDA have been phenomenal at what they do.”

While Habitat misses public celebrations for home dedications, house sponsor Jarret Ford gathered staff together to congratulate Gatz and have General Manager Cliff Martin present his keys virtually. Volunteers sent video with their best wishes, as well. Habitat posted these videos during dedication day to celebrate such a momentous event.

While the pandemic slowed progress, continuing to build was a priority for Habitat. When the large groups of volunteers that Habitat ordinarily depends upon cancelled, Habitat staff knew that they needed to find a way to bring volunteers back to the job site safely. Following guidelines from the CDC and Habitat for Humanity International, volunteers have slowly found their way back.

Groups can be no larger than 10, they must wear masks and practice social distancing. Habitat has added wash stations at every job site, along with hand sanitizer and wipes.

About Habitat for Humanity of East & Central Pasco County

Habitat for Humanity of East & Central Pasco County, located in Dade City, Florida, has been around since 1994. To date, volunteers and donors have built 153 affordable homes in east and central Pasco County. For more information about how you can be involved, visit www.habitatpasco.org or email jferguson@habitatpasco.org.

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