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Thanks to Pasco School Board, woman gets free home

HUDSON — When the white pickup with the Pasco County government logo pulled up to Kathryn Reiter's Griffin Park home, she couldn't help but worry.

"I thought he was coming to confiscate my dogs," Reiter, 60, recalled with a laugh.

That wasn't it at all.

Her visitor was Ed Pflieger, a county housing specialist with the community development division. And he was there to give her a new house.

"She about fainted," Pflieger remembered.

Four years after Hurricane Jeanne had swept her roof away, causing Reiter one housing nightmare after another, the Pasco School Board had donated a home to the county's home replacement program that would fit her needs and her property. The district didn't need the house, on a Chicago Avenue lot where it planned to build a new high school, and it could be Reiter's if she wanted it.

Reiter, who lives on her part-time McDonald's cook salary and cares for two adult daughters and a grandson with Asperger's syndrome, had recently spent $3,000 to repair her roof and ordered drywall and wood to tackle mold and mildew in the walls of her 500-square-foot mobile home.

"I prayed for this," said Reiter, who placed a Bible in the new home's window on her first visit. "An angel flew right into my parking lot."

To the School Board, the deal made perfect sense.

It couldn't use the 2,300-square-foot modular home for any educational purpose, but it did not want to raze a perfectly good building. So the board donated it to the county with the intent that a needy family get it.

As Reiter showed off the house, the long-time cook stopped first in the kitchen.

"The man who owned this house, his wife never cooked in this house," she said. "So the stove is unused. The sink is unused. They ate out every night. ... It will be like second heaven."

Reiter looked forward to being able to make meatloaf, and Thanksgiving dinner, and her favorite lemon chicken, in a space where she can move her arms without hitting someone.

She reveled in the separate rooms for everyone. Especially her own bedroom with an oversized bathroom, complete with jacuzzi bath.

The home even boasts an intercom system. "I don't have to scream across the house."

All that stands between Reiter and her new home now is a permit and a move. She's already started prepping her property and packing her belongings.

The Pod comes after lunch today.

Two firms — Showcase Homes and Signature Construction — will help move the 24-ton structure, which must travel between 1 and 5 a.m. to avoid traffic bottlenecks. Reiter hopes to be relocated by Halloween.

"I have a 13-year-old grandson who is expecting to trick or treat me right there," she said.

Reiter also looks forward to the new high school, which her grandchildren will attend. After raising three kids on her own, enduring tough financial times, losing a son to drugs and more, she's learned to understand that happiness comes to those who seek it.

"This is nothing but an up," Reiter said. "This is my blessing."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Thanks to Pasco School Board, woman gets free home 09/23/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 26, 2008 2:00pm]
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