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Hernando nonprofit aims to house those who need it

Comedy show and dinner will help raise money for ministry working in Hernando, Pasco and Citrus counties and beyond.

BROOKSVILLE — They’re calling it “comedy for a cause.”

The Fuller Center for Housing Nature Coast is hosting dinner and a show on Sept. 28 at Heritage Pines Country Club as a fundraiser for the ministry it launched in May. The Comedy Time Tunnel show promises glimpses of comedy from the 1800s through the early days of TV and radio.

Comedic magician Elliott Smith headlines the show that will include vaudeville, stand-up, theater and footage of some of the greatest comedians in the industry, including Milton Berle, Abbott and Costello, and George Burns.

Rich Massa, CEO of the nonprofit housing organization, thinks the $50 for tickets will be well spent, giving patrons an evening of fun as they learn about the work of the ministry.

“Our hope is that people will see what we’re doing here and understand this is how you unite a community," Massa said, "by having one catalyst that doesn’t really focus on itself but focuses on others.

Folks at the Fuller Center “fully believe we are called to show the love of Christ by helping somebody out,” he said.

Helping means providing them with affordable housing, whether that’s aiding them in building a new home or refurbishing their existing one. Eventually it also will mean providing rental homes, so people can learn money management skills that allow them to apply for home ownership.

“Sometimes people just need a rental to recoup,” Massa said. “The biggest things we’re talking about are these pocket communities of five to 10 homes that are going to be designed to help one another, with people strategically placed in those areas to be a resource for folks.”

If the ministry sounds familiar, it’s because it’s founders, Millard and Linda Fuller, also were the founders of Habitat for Humanity in 1976. In 2005, Fuller decided Habitat was growing in more of a corporate direction.

“Habitat is still doing a great mission,” Massa said. “But Millard wanted to get back to the grass roots of discipleship and sharing the love of Christ with one another. He wanted to focus on the connectedness and the relationships and the love being more to the forefront.”

The organization has more than 100 branches throughout the country, with four in Florida.

“As the Nature Coast, we will eventually be covering Citrus, Hernando, Pasco and parts of Sumter, Marion and Pinellas counties,” said Marina Edwards from the organization’s Brooksville office.

Groundbreaking for the first home in Hernando was in July. About 80 people attended the event, including church elders from Christian Church in the Wildwood.

“Their generous donation toward this home is making one hardworking father’s dream come true,” Edwards wrote in a press release, noting that the owner is a single father who cares for his disabled daughter. “Almost half of his income from his full-time job goes towards rent. Between their household bills and medical costs, it doesn’t leave any room for life’s inevitable pitfalls.”

Finding people who need help is the easy part, Massa said.

“The numbers are staggering,” he said. “Once we started opening our doors, we’ve had so many referrals." The Hernando County Housing Authority refers clients, he said, and one came recently through Facebook.

As a businessman, Massa knows that succeeding means generating funding through events like the Comedy Tunnel, as well as garnering donations and sponsorships, securing help from volunteers and even word-of-mouth referrals.

As a Christian, Massa has another bottom line, too.

“We have a group of individuals that are not driven by their own gain or how big the organization can get,” he said. “We’re driven by Christ at the forefront, and that’s really what it’s about. We want to be examples of that through our actions, not just through our words.”

To go: The Comedy Time Tunnel will begin with dinner at 6 p.m. and a show at 7 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Heritage Pines Country Club, 11524 Scenic Hills Blvd., Hudson. Tickets cost $50 and are available at NCHOF.com or by calling (352) 610-4019. To get involved with Fuller Center for Housing Nature Coast, visit fchnc.com.

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