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Hernando Habitat hosts a gala to spotlight volunteer efforts

BROOKSVILLE — Habitat for Humanity of Hernando County might cover the costliest need for struggling families — homes — but it gets a lot of help in other areas.

"We are sort of the finish line for people in need," says Debbie Prescott, community resource director for Hernando Habitat.

So, the home-building organization will showcase other volunteer groups that help families navigate the paths that lead to stable, productive lives as well as home ownership.

The first such showcase is scheduled for Nov. 3 at Heroes' Gala, a dinner dance at Southern Hills Plantation, where Habitat will recognize the Dawn Center, Pay It Forward Farm and Mount Pilgrim Free Will Baptist Church.

Each of the organizations has nominated its own "hero" and one will be selected the Building Hope Hero of the Year.

Nominees are Elizabeth "Liz" Jennings, board president of the Dawn Center; Christine Collins, director of Pay It Forward Farm; and Quaneisha Hawkins, who leads her church's effort to establish a scholarship fund for students overcoming adversity.

Jennings, 60, a registered nurse at Oak Hill Hospital, has volunteered since the early 1970s to assist victims of sexual violence in finding safe locations and providing assistance with legal services.

Collins, 53, one of six children raised by a widowed mother, aims to help single mothers grow in self-reliance, confidence and compassion. She assists about a dozen single parents volunteering at her Spring Hill farm.

Collins also maintains a food pantry and a thrift store where the parents may shop with "volunteer points."

Hawkins, 21, graduated from Hernando High School in 2010 despite a traffic accident that left her in a coma for two months and caused her to lose her unborn child. Using a wheelchair, she returned to classes, then went on to Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.

In nominating Hawkins, her pastor, David Franklin, wrote: "She has been an inspiration to so many people. Students who might look for excuses to quit school, or to never advance in their education, have been encouraged by her life."

During the evening, Jennings will pitch the Dawn Center's need for financial donations or gift cards to purchase perishable foods for its residential clients; Collins will seek money to put a new roof on the farm's community/activity center; and Hawkins will ask for support for the church's scholarship fund.

A gala dinner will offer a gourmet buffet. U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent will be the featured speaker.

Entertainment will include music, dancing and a roving magician.

Tickets are $90 per person or $600 for a table of eight, with proceeds helping Habitat to build more houses in Hernando. Reservations can be made by calling 352-754-1159. Prescott says the goal is an audience of 180.

Beth Gray can be contacted at

Hernando Habitat hosts a gala to spotlight volunteer efforts 10/24/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 7:01pm]
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