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Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County marks 25 years with Birthday Blitz Build

Pinellas County Habitat staff and volunteers race the clock in the organization’s Birthday Blitz Build.


Pinellas County Habitat staff and volunteers race the clock in the organization’s Birthday Blitz Build.

Seven hundred volunteers and seven days.

That added up to two homes and a brighter future for two single parents and six children.

To mark its 25th anniversary last week, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County threw a "Birthday Blitz Build," in which volunteers in hard hats raced against the clock to put new roofs over the heads of two struggling, single parents, each with three children.

The new homeowners are Matthew Barnhart, a 33-year-old who is deaf and works jobs at UPS and Walmart, and Tequila Anderson, a 28-year-old licensed practical nurse, on her own since age 16.

With the homes' foundations in place, the Extreme Makeover-style effort began Jan. 16 and was completed Friday.

"It typically takes 60 to 90 days to build a Habitat home and we'll be finished in seven," said Jamie Cataldo, the organization's communications director.

"This is much better than the TV show. Here our volunteers and homeowners work side by side. Our homeowners aren't off vacationing at Disneyland. They're putting their sweat equity into these homes."

Since its inception in 1985, Habitat Pinellas has constructed 177 homes, giving safe and secure shelter to 464 children.

The houses on 162nd Avenue in unincorporated Pinellas just southwest of the Bayside Bridge were created using a new building design that would meld in with the rest of the modest, attractive homes on the street. Both homes, one with three bedrooms and the other with four, featured Energy Star appliances, hip roof design and impact-resistant windows and doors.

"It will result in savings on insurance and energy bills for the homeowners," Cataldo said.

Anderson's home was known as a "Women Build" project. It's the sixth such type of Habitat home to be built primarily by women in the county.

Women Build is part of a nationwide program that encourages the involvement of females, thereby empowering them with construction skills.

"There's a different vibe going on at that house," Cataldo said, referring to the one where women in raspberry-colored T-shirts worked.

"There's a lot of smiling and a real camaraderie," she said. "One day, I looked up and there was a sea of pink on the roof."

Carmen Figueroa, a Habitat volunteer, said she had learned how to use power tools for the first time.

"It's a great feeling," said Figueroa, 47, of Seminole. "Now I can cut a door frame and install closet shelves. I can do all those husband kind of things myself."

But Kristina Kinnaman, 33, of Clearwater said you wouldn't catch her with a power tool.

"I'll leave that to the gentlemen," she said. "I'm happy to paint."

Kinnaman took a day off from Publix to volunteer.

Publix Super Markets Charities and the 2009 Habitat Pinellas Hammers and Heartstrings Ball, a fundraiser, each provided $50,000 sponsorships for the two families, which goes into the cost of the home.

Pam Turner, who is in her 60s, has volunteered with Habitat groups since 1982. She donned blue scrubs, splattered in a kaleidoscope of paint colors from her volunteer work over the years.

"I love Habitat for what it does," she said. "Having a home increases your self-esteem, makes you a better member of a community, and your children will do better knowing they have a home."

Barnhart and Anderson, like all Habitat recipients, had to demonstrate a need, meet income requirements, possess reasonably good credit and demonstrate the ability to pay back a loan to be able to qualify for the program.

They also must invest sweat equity in the building program, which amounts to 250 to 350 hours.

Homes are sold to recipients at no profit and financed with a no-interest loan.

Anderson said she's thrilled that her children will be able to move from an apartment to a home with a spacious back yard.

The first thing she plans to do is make a home-cooked meal.

"We're going to sit and look out the big window in the kitchen and watch the planes take off," she said.

"It's been my dream to own a home. I never thought it would really happen, but it is."


Habitat for Humanity

For more information on donating, volunteering or becoming a homeowner candidate, visit or call (727) 536-4755.

700 Volunteers who have worked on the two homes.

7 Days it took to build the two homes from start to finish. A normal
Habitat home takes 60 to 90 days.

177 Homes that Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County has built since its inception in 1985.

464 Children Habitat
for Humanity of Pinellas has given shelter to.

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County marks 25 years with Birthday Blitz Build 01/23/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 4:24pm]
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