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On Thursday, December 10th, 2020, the Veteran community gathered in New Port Richey to celebrate with Mary White, US Army Veteran, as she opened the door to her new Habitat home. Mary partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties and its Homes for Veterans program to build her home in New Port Richey, which she will purchase with a zero percent interest mortgage.

It was an extra special morning because Aspen, Mary’s 6-year old son, had no idea that his mom was about to receive the keys to their new home. In addition to a new home, which he had asked for Christmas, he was elated when the Holiday Sharing Fund presented him with a new bike! General Dynamics also surprised Aspen with new toys for the holidays. Special gifts were also given to Mary, included a fully stocked pantry thanks to a new partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay.

In honor of her veteran status, Mary’s dedication was a special tribute to the Veteran community. The dedication began with a presentation of the Colors by the American Legion Paradise Post 79, and Brigadier General Clark Quinn, U.S. Central Command Vice Director, Strategy, Plans and Policy presented a flag to the homeowner. Martin, Bill, and Santiago Gramatica presented Mary with a hammer – symbolizing the significance of partnerships based on the belief that everyone deserves a safe place to call home. Tim Bagniefski, VP of Marketing at General Dynamics, served in the Marines. He presented Mary with the keys to her home.

About the Sponsors
In December of 2019, Habitat Pinellas and West Pasco partnered with Gramatica SIPS International to advance its affordable housing work with the organization’s line of Structural Insulated Panel Systems (SIPS). In addition to utilizing the SIP system to advance construction methods, Habitat continues to partner with the Gramatica Family Foundation, and their support of the Homes for Veterans program is aligned with organization’s mission.

“The Gramatica Family Foundation is proud to continue our partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties. We look forward to working with them on many more veteran home builds so we can help our community’s heroes live in dignity and comfort”, said Martin Gramatica.

A new partner to Habitat, General Dynamics, also supported this home build. “At the heart of General Dynamics’ culture is our unwavering commitment to our military, our veterans and their families. We are deeply grateful for the opportunity to partner with Habitat Pinellas and West Pasco in support of the heroic men and women in our community and look forward to future collaborations focused on the enrichment of veteran families”, said Tim Bagniefski.

Habitat homeownership partner families must demonstrate a need for adequate shelter, the ability to pay back a zero-interest loan and willingness to partner with Habitat to invest 350 to 450 “sweat equity” hours. These soon-to-be homeowners also completed 20 homeowner education classes, from budgeting to how to be a good neighbor, to prepare for their new chapter as homeowners.

Typically, the community is invited to join the new homeowner at their home dedication in person. Due to the pandemic, Habitat invites supporters to tune into dedications virtually via Facebook Live stream at https://www.facebook.com/HabitatPinellasPasco/.

About the Homeowner
Soon-to-be homeowner, Mary White, is a disabled Army Veteran and proud mom of five-year-old, Aspen. After entering into a homeless program to better her family’s life and get back on track, Mary completed her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work. She currently works as an Employment Security Representative II at Career Source Pasco Hernando for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

After going from a two-family income down to one, financial troubles escalated. “We had to leave our apartment behind, to avoid eviction on our record. We found ourselves homeless. Eventually, the VA helped us into a housing program and we couched surfed until we were able to move in.”

“Going through any rough financial period takes its toll. It has taken me years to get out of the hole we were in, and to this point of qualifying for Habitat. It has been a lot of hard work to get here.”
Like many Habitat homeowners, Mary knew that her acceptance into the Habitat homeownership program would open a new chapter for her and her son’s life. “When we were first accepted into Habitat, I didn’t think it was real. I was waiting for that second call to explain they made a mistake. They never did.”

On December 10th, Mary celebrated with the Veteran community as she opens the door to her new home. To future homeowner candidates, Mary says, “Starting something new can be challenging, but nothing worth it ever comes easy.”

In the midst of the pandemic, Habitat Pinellas and West Pasco partners remain supportive of its mission to provide safe and affordable homeownership opportunities for those in need. The 3rd Veterans Build home was sponsored by 4-Star sponsor, General Dynamics, 3-Star sponsor, Gramatica Family Foundation and many other generous donors.

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