- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

COCOA, Fla. (AP) - In its years of publication, Florida Today’s Spaces has showcased some of Brevard’s most magnificent and unique residences, but perhaps none is more beautiful than the modest 1,100-square-foot Cocoa house NASA Visitor Center employee Angela Jordan moved into in September, for hers is a house built with love from the ground up.

When Jordan goes to bed, she sleeps peacefully, knowing that within the walls of her home and even embedded in its foundation are biblical verses of hope, as well as blessings and good wishes written by the Habitat for Humanity volunteers who helped Jordan achieve her dream of homeownership.

“You are literally standing on the word of God when you’re in my house,” said Jordan.

Becoming a homeowner was certainly heaven-sent for Jordan, Habitat of Brevard’s newest homeowner.

“My mother never owned her own house and I never owned my own place until Habitat made it possible,” said Jordan, who proudly made her first mortgage payment this month. “This is truly a breakthrough for my family.”

It took more than two years from start of application to finished home for Jordan, but it was well worth the wait, she says. She now has a home for herself and her teen niece, under her care after Jordan’s sister passed away a couple of years ago.

Habitat not only made homeownership possible for Jordan, but the organization also has helped her financially.

“I’m paying $200 less a month than what I was paying for a two-bedroom apartment on Dixon Boulevard, and just the front part of my new house is bigger than my entire old apartment,” said Jordan.

Jordan was able to snag such a good deal because Habitat for Humanity depends heavily on volunteer labor and donations to build or remodel 20-some houses annually and also holds the mortgages it offers on these homes at zero percent. Habitat makes no profit on any of the houses it builds. There is a catch, however. Houses aren’t given to anyone, but rather are designed for people in need. The average income range for a family of four to qualify for a Habitat home is $24,300 to $35,340. The family must also be currently living in substandard housing and be willing to complete a minimum of 200 sweat equity hours.

Like all applicants, Jordan had to meet specific criteria and expectations before receiving the keys to her new house. She loved the fact that she could help build her own home.

“To be able to be a part of raising the first wall of my house was amazing,” she said.

A 10-week homeowner education/financial competence program is also required from all household members 16 and older.

“We’re trying to set up these families for success,” said Diane Koenig, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Brevard County.

Families can choose a home in the south, central or north parts of the county, but they must accept Habitat’s standard floor plan that is customized to the size of the family. The homes are neither huge nor fancy, but they’re energy efficient and easy on the environment as well as the eye.

Fourteen families are currently in the pipeline to acquire a Habitat home, built in as little as 10 weeks by a workforce of volunteers under the guidance of a professional site supervisor.

Volunteers are at the heart of every Habitat home. At Jordan’s home, for example, volunteers did everything from raising the first wall to finishing off the yard. Habitat’s volunteer corps run the gamut from retirees to teens. Merritt Island High School’s Habitat Student Chapter not only raises money for the charity, but also labors alongside older volunteers.

“The entire Holy Trinity Academy football team was here to lay the sod,” said Jordan.

The homes include appliances donated by Whirlpool, double-glazed windows with hurricane shutters, air conditioning, a pantry in the kitchen and a tub with a shower in the bathroom. Some even have patios or porches. Volunteers with green thumbs grow the plants that will be used in the simple landscape, so no two are alike. In Jordan’s case, she was furnished with a two-car garage because of requirements established but the City of Cocoa.

Many Habitat homeowners are so grateful that they continue volunteering at house builds for years, even though it is not required.

“We have Habitat homeowners who have volunteered more than 1,000 hours,” noted Koenig.

Habitat doesn’t just provide affordable housing; it also sparks neighborhoods. In Melbourne’s Booker T. Washington community, the city’s poorest, Habitat’s Greater Heights complex injected a serious dose of community pride with the construction of 10 homes in a once crime- and drug-ridden area. Habitat continues its efforts in this African-American neighborhood with Sunwood, a community of 15 single-family homes currently under construction.

“We build homes, communities and hope,” said Koenig.

Since Habitat began in Brevard in 1985, the charity has built homes for 339 families. Brevard Habitat is part of Habitat International, a worldwide nonprofit Christian housing ministry.

Corporate support in the form of special events such as the upcoming “If I Had a Hammer,” scheduled for Nov. 15 at the Holiday Inn Melbourne-Viera Conference Center, is critical for the local chapter of the organization. Tom Vice, president of Northrup Grumman Aerospace Systems is a guest speaker at the event.

Jordan, who struggled with drug addiction for many years, considers her new Habitat home a precious gift in a seven-year-old recovery journey that has challenged her spirit with the deaths of several loved ones, including her 25-year-old son.

“My Habitat home has been a blessing to me,” said Jordan.

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Information from: Florida Today (Melbourne, Fla.), https://www.floridatoday.com

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