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Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas dedicates 202nd new home

CLEARWATER — Arianna Turner was overcome with emotion as she spoke to well-wishers Thursday afternoon.

No wonder.

At about 4:40 p.m., she officially became a homeowner.

That's when Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County officials gave her the keys to her newly completed house at 701 Pennsylvania Ave..

"It was amazing what God can do when you trust him," she told about 30 people at the dedication ceremony. "It was that trust and the partnership of Habitat and the city of Clearwater that got me this home."

Turner is a single mother of two. She and her children — Ariq Newton, 8, who attends Dunedin Elementary, and Ayanna Jackson, 4, who attends Gulley Center Head Start — started moving in after Thursday's ceremony.

The home is the 202nd built by Habitat Pinellas, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The build was sponsored by the city of Clearwater and the city's Economic Development and Housing Department, which provided construction financing.

Clearwater provided $130,000 in construction money and $71,500 in other subsidies for the home, Mayor Frank Hibbard said. This is the 35th house Habitat Pinellas has built in Clearwater, said Barbara Inman, president and CEO of Habitat Pinellas.

"Habitat is obviously a marvelous force for us in Clearwater," Hibbard said before the ceremony. "The program is making a significant commitment, and it's a formula that has worked."

The three-bedroom, two-bath took 2,000 volunteer hours to build. Flanking the sidewalk to the front door are two magnolia trees. The yard features red mulch and a lush, green lawn.

Arianna Turner, 29, was born in Clearwater and is a lifelong resident.

She has worked eight years for Suncoast Hospice, where she is a patient counselor.

She had lived in HUD Section 8 Housing. But in 2007, she received a 50-cent per hour raise that put her over the income level for that assistance.

At that point, she gave up the housing assistance and moved in with family members, who allowed her to stay for free and also helped her with child care.

That enabled her to pay off $30,000 of debt and put her in position to save money for the house down payment.

"I couldn't have done it without my family," Turner said.

Using community volunteers and donations of money and materials, Habitat of Pinellas builds and rehabilitates houses for families on limited incomes. Potential homeowners work between 250 and 350 hours to contribute "sweat equity" to the structure that will become their home.

Once built, the home is sold to the individual or family at no profit and financed with zero-interest loans.

This home will provide a bit of a bonus for the Turners.

"The Turner family home is an Energy Star Home," said Sue Hoffman, communications director for Habitat Pinellas. "We focus on 'green' energy efficiency and insurance-friendly design for our homes. Those sustainability measures translate into an estimated $1,035 yearly savings for homeowners."

The home has high-performance windows, a high-efficiency heat pump and a specially sealed duct system.

The family received gifts from a variety of individuals and organizations, including the Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf of Largo, which donated a bookcase with books.

For his part, Hibbard handed an American flag to young Ariq.

"It's an exciting time for these homeowners," Hibbard said. "This house represents the American dream."

fast facts

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County

• 202 homes have been built for struggling families in Pinellas County through Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County with the help of volunteers, the future homeowners and local funding.

• Homes are sold at no profit and financed with a zero-interest loan.

• Habitat Pinellas homeowner candidates earn 30 to 80 percent of area median income, or as little as $17,800 a year for a family of four in Pinellas County.

• Candidates must prove need for adequate shelter, ability to repay zero-interest loan and willingness to invest 250-350 sweat equity hours with Habitat Pinellas.

For more information on Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas: Visit habitatpinellas.org or call (727) 536-4755.

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas dedicates 202nd new home 10/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 7, 2010 9:05pm]
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