BRANDON — Sonya Pratt, the single mother of two boys and a girl, has never known what it’s like to have a home, let alone sleep in a bedroom of her very own.
She’s been living with her sister in a cramped two-bedroom apartment along with one other adult and three children.
"I’ve always dreamed about owning my own home so that I didn’t have to worry about the rent going up," she said.
But instead of simply fantasizing about living in a place she could call her own, she took a giant leap forward and found a realistic approach to making home ownership a reality for herself and her two sons.
Thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County and the enormous generosity of multiple volunteers and supporters — including cardiologist-turned-entrepreneur Dr. Kiran Patel and his pediatrician wife Dr. Pallavi Patel — Pratt recently took ownership of a home in her name on East Morgan Street in Brandon.
It is the first of five Habitat for Humanity’s houses to be completed in the Williams Glen community, on land purchased through a $100,000 Hillsborough County Affordable Housing Community Development Block Grant and named in recognition of Williams Automotive Group, an ardent supporter of Habitat for Humanity.
To Pratt’s absolute delight, it was Kiran Patel, one of the principals of the Patel Family Foundation, who attended the home’s dedication ceremony on Monday (March 5) and presented the house keys to her.
Habitat Hillsborough CEO Tina Swain, praised him and the Patel Foundation for its recent contribution of $171,500. The donation was made in partnership with the Patel-owned Clearwater Beach Wyndham Grand Hotel & Beach Resort, whose staff members have volunteered more than 400 hours to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity homebuyers.
She also complimented the Patel family for being outstanding stewards of the Tampa Bay community and their focus on education.
"We also thank you for your vision and for knowing how stable housing makes it easier to gain education," Swain said.
Kiran Patel said he is thankful to God for making him a member of the community and for instilling in him his desire to contribute toward the success of Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County.
"It’s wonderful being here and this is what happens when fellow human beings help one another," he said, describing the volunteers’ commitment of time to building the Pratt home and other Habitat projects as "priceless."
"Money is something that people can create, but time is something that God gives us that is so important and so valuable to make life better for others," he added.
Victoria Richards, Hillsborough Habitat’s volunteer services manager, presented Habitat’s symbolic Hammer Award to volunteer Jerry Sullivan of Branson, Mo., who opted to lend a hand almost daily during his winter stay in Brandon.
The award was given in honor of Habitat for Humanity Founder Millard Fuller who created the Theology of the Hammer, based on his belief that everyone can use the hammer as an instrument to show the Lord’s love and compassion for all human beings.
"I got involved because this project is a hand up, not a hand out," Sullivan said, "and because the people in these homes are the nicest people you could ever want to know."
Platt, with the help of family members, completed Habitat’s required 300 hours of "sweat equity" involvement in building the home, plus the 10 homeownership-related classes needed to qualify for the program’s zero-interest mortgage. Her low job wages also played a major role in helping her meet the organization’s requirements.
In addition, Tampa Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution representative Joyce Beeman presented Pratt with an American Flag and Harriet Blymiller of the Quilter’s Workshop of Tampa Bay gave her a handmade comforter created by fellow quilter Nancy Blunk.
"I would first like to thank God and then the Drs. Patel," Pratt said. "And thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone one else who made this possible."
Something else that made the occasion joyful for Pratt was knowing her adult daughter, Kennethia Blue, will soon be living next door in another Habitat-built home.
"This is a great, great day for my family," said Pratt’s mother, Ann Jackson, whose face also gleamed with gratitude during the dedication ceremony of her daughter’s new three-bedroom, two-bath home.
"God has really blessed us."
Contact Joyce McKenzie at [email protected]