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Habitat volunteers build a new, secure future for two Clearwater women

CLEARWATER — Tammie Carriger and Melissa McComish will soon be the newest homeowners at the Stevens Creek subdivision.

But they will have had a lot of help to get there.

About 500 volunteers will work for a week to help the two women build their three-bedroom homes in the Habitat for Humanity subdivision during the Habitat Pinellas Fifth Annual Blitz Build Event, which started Friday.

Carriger, 50, and McComish, 45, have each seen their share of upheaval. They've persevered through heartbreak, job loss and extreme financial hardship, and as single parents, they've struggled with securing a safe home for their children.

As she worked Friday with the team assembling the interior framing for her three-bedroom home, Carriger pointed to a corner of the structure. "My daughter's room will be right there,'' she said.

For several years, Carriger and her daughter, 5-year-old De-angel, have shared a bedroom at her brother and sister-in-law's home.

"Since De-angel is used to sleeping so close to me, she might be coming into my bedroom when we first move in, but I know she'll do well in her room after a while. She definitely knows not to clutter,'' said Carriger, who also has an adult son, Dion, and an adult daughter, Danielle. She also had a third son, Dante, who died from heart failure in 2007.

And for McComish, whose 6-year-old daughter, Dakota, attends Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School through the Step Up for Students scholarship program, the dream of owning a home came from watching a friend go through the Habitat program in Ocala.

Before McComish could receive help from Habitat for Humanity, she had to work through a bankruptcy.

"It took me several years, but I believe now that bankruptcy is not an end, it was part of my beginning,'' said McComish, who also has an adult daughter, Amber.

Recently, McComish has found it impossible to contain her excitement.

"I am so blessed. Two days after applying to Habitat I got a call that my application was accepted. It was on June 29, 2012, my birthday,'' she said. "I'm always driving through the neighborhood when I'm going to work, and once there was a Progress Energy worker doing electrical stuff on the property. I just had to get out of the car and hug him and thank him for his help.''

It's precisely that excitement that keeps volunteers like Sue Zenk, 70, active. Zenk and her husband Darrell split their time between Dunedin and Minnesota. For the last five years they've volunteered for Habitat, traveling to places as far as Hawaii to build homes for those in need. On Friday, they were on hand for the Blitz Build kickoff at Stevens Creek off N Betty Lane.

"I love the people, and we also love learning more about construction,'' said Zenk, taking a break from her post at an electric saw. "When I was young, my father did a lot of building, but I didn't get to do too much because, you know, I was a girl.''

As the echo of hammers on plywood floated through the neighborhood Friday, McComish and Carriger took a moment to talk about the future — coffee breaks in their own kitchens, play dates between their daughters, and block parties to meet the other neighbors.

The one thing they didn't even consider talking about was saying good-bye.

"I'm here for life,'' said Carriger.

"I am rooted here,'' said McComish

"Yep, we are going to die neighbors,'' they said, falling into a collective fit of laughter.

On Feb. 17, after the two three-bedroom houses are complete, the volunteers will gather one more time. They will watch as the homes, furnished with new appliances, ceiling fans and energy-efficient central air conditioning units, are blessed by clergy. Everyone will be invited to put their hands on the homes during a prayer.

After the ceremony, Carriger and McComish will be handed the keys to their new homes.

Piper Castillo can be reached at pcastillo@tampabay.com. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

>>fast facts

How to help

For the Habitat Pinellas Fifth Annual Blitz Build, volunteers participating included 20 service men and women from MacDill Air Force Base, as well as employees from such corporations as First American Financial, Franklin Templeton, Frameworks of Tampa Bay, Nielsen Media Research, Power Design Inc., Publix Super Markets and the Tampa Bay Times.

If you or your organization would like to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County, email volunteer@habitatpinellas.org

Habitat volunteers build a new, secure future for two Clearwater women 02/08/13 [Last modified: Friday, February 8, 2013 8:14pm]
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