BRANDON — The engine of a bulldozer rumbled outside Apostles Lutheran Church. The sound made Pastor Handlee Vige crack a smile.
By next August, a 55-unit apartment building will provide senior citizens an affordable place to live.
"We began exploring the possibility of doing this seven years ago," Vige said. "Now it's finally happening."
With almost $8-million in federal, state and county grants, the church will build much-needed low-income senior housing on 2 acres next to the sanctuary on Kingsway Road. The 28,000-square-foot building will feature apartments that average about 540 square feet for individuals or couples that qualify.
Residents will have access to a social worker, resident manager and a maintenance worker in addition to homemaking, respite and transportation services. The complex will be managed by LifeLink Corp., a nonprofit health and human services organization.
Apostles Village will be the first time that a Lutheran congregation in the area has taken on such a project.
It all started, Vige said, when a fellow retired pastor came up with the idea. That pastor wanted to do something similar in Cape Coral. And at the time, Apostles Lutheran had been looking for ways to provide ministry to the community.
The church combined forces with Lutheran Services Florida, a statewide social services organization, to secure the land and grants for the project using a 2004 survey demonstrating the need for such housing in the state.
In 2006, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved a $5.5-million grant application, according to the Lutheran Services Florida Web site. Once the two organizations formed a board for the project, it then applied for additional funding.
That came in the form of $265,000 from a Hillsborough County Community Development Block Grant, and another $935,000 from the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program.
Vige said that once applications are accepted in the coming months, those chosen to live in the complex will have to meet criteria based on income and other requirements. No preference will be given to church members or anyone else, and applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Along with the 2004 study, the need for more affordable senior housing is apparent in the situations Vige and others at the church see within its congregation.
One woman, who receives $639 a month in Social Security benefits, couldn't make it if she didn't live with her daughter.
Another woman, who died recently, had an income of $12,000 a year and lived by herself in a little trailer not far from the church.
At 85, she barely made it through each month with help from her son.
"The need is there," Vige said. "We want it to provide a safe, comfortable, quality living space for low-income seniors."
Chandra Broadwater can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 661-2454.