Tammy Mohns can’t wait to move into her new home. A server at Neptune Grill in Gulfport, Mohns has two sons, ages 15 and 18, who attend Boca Ciega High School and another son, 24, who attends college in Orlando. Currently living with friends in St. Petersburg, Mohns never thought she and her children would be moving into a new home of their own, but thanks to the Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County program, that dream will soon be a reality. On February 28, Habitat of Pinellas broke ground on the house at 5002 9th Avenue S., that Tammy and her sons will soon occupy, which is also the first Habitat home to be built in Gulfport.
“This is so awesome,” says Mohns. “It’s a blessing.”
Since being accepted into the Habitat Pinellas homeowner program, Mohns has completed 16 homeowner education classes and has finished 147 “sweat equity” hours, working on Habitat houses for others.
“I put in a lot of hours helping build homes,” says Mohns. “I’m also required to put in hours working on my own home during construction.”
According to the Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County, 396 homes have been constructed for families in Pinellas County, using locally raised funds. The idea behind the program is that home ownership contributes to family stability, leading in turn to community stability.
“We build an average of 100 to 120 homes each year with another 75 to 80 in the pipeline,” says Kenneth Rush, chief operations officer of Habitat Pinellas. “The biggest requirement is candidates have to have a willingness to partner with us.”
There is a strict prequalification process. Candidates must demonstrate the need for adequate shelter, meet income requirements, have a willingness to partner with Habitat Pinellas to invest 250 to 350 sweat equity hours and the ability to pay back a zero interest loan. Mortgage monies are then used to build even more homes, making each donation to Habitat a legacy to the community.
Properties for the homes are acquired through donations or purchased through open listings. Home size is based on family makeup, such as the age and gender of the children which determines whether they share a room or have their own, according to Rush, and homeowners have a choice of floor plans. Depending on the number of volunteers, the homes typically are finished within 12 to 14 weeks.
“Volunteers are key. We make a strong, conscious effort to recruit in the areas in which we are building,” says Rush. “We inform the public of what we are doing and get the word out in the community.”
While volunteers are still recruited up until the time the home is completed, many Gulfport residents and groups are pitching in, including Mohns’ co-workers at Neptune Grill.
“I love Gulfport,” says Mohn. “My main support is in Gulfport. I can’t wait to move here.”
The home for Tammy and her sons is expected to be completed in April.
“Habitat is a beautiful program. You have to work hard for it but it’s a great opportunity,” Mohns says. “The boys are so excited about our new home. We all are.”
For more information about Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County or to volunteer, visit habitatpinellas.org.