Habitat group nets top honor

Jakobe Zick, a member of The Villages High School Construction Management Academy, nails a roof truss into place on a home being built for Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter in Lady Lake. The organization was named 2020 Non-Profit of the Year by the Lake County Chamber Alliance.

Kent Adcock stood proudly with members of Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter as they accepted an award highlighting their efforts throughout the community for the past year.

The award, a bronze eagle statue, was given to the group as recognition for it being the 2020 Non-Profit of the Year,

Having been around since 1989, the group is dedicated to serving individuals in Lake and Sumter counties with access and opportunity to affordable housing solutions.

It was recognized by the Lake County Chamber Alliance, which annually recognizes individuals and organizations whose dedication, selfless service and commitment make a difference in the community.

“Receiving the 2020 Non-Profit of the Year Award is a significant milestone for Habitat Lake-Sumter,” said Lacie Himes, development director for the nonprofit. “With the uncertainty of the pandemic, Habitat Lake-Sumter faced many challenges to continue their mission to build homes, communities and hope.”

Accomplishments Through A Pandemic

Despite temporarily closing the ReStores, or thrift stores, that help support the nonprofit and the suspension of volunteers from construction sites, the organization was still able to complete some major projects.

“Our volunteers were able to complete construction of five homes for local families even in the middle of the pandemic,” Himes said.  “Even with the finished construction of five homes, we also began construction on eight new homes and repaired

21 others, providing safe and stable housing for 29 families when being home was a key factor to health and security throughout the pandemic.”

Some of these constructions were completed by The Villages Habitat for Humanity Club and the Habitat for Humanity Youth Construction Academies, a partnership with The Villages High School, Leesburg High School and South Lake High School students who start learning the skills they need for careers in the construction industry. 

The Work of The Villages Club

The Villages Habitat for Humanity Club hit a big accomplishment this year, and it’s not hard to see why the organization was named Non-Profit of the Year.

“This is the first year that we built a house as a club,” said co-leader Kevin Tucker, of the Village Del Mar, as he reflected on their first major build.

The build, located in Fruitland Park, was to benefit Joyce Tohill, a single mother from Tavares.

“Joyce is a single mother with a disabled daughter, and we fell in love with the family as we worked with them,” Tucker said. “They became like part of the family and we were so thankful that we could work with the organization to give her a place she could call home and raise her family.”

Tohill was overwhelmed with the generosity and the talent of the group.

“I never expected to have a home of my own,” she said. “It was always a dream of mine to have a home, but financially it didn’t seem achievable. I had worked with the organization during their Women’s Build program and when they offered me a chance, I was so excited.”

The club plans to begin its second home construction, also in Fruitland Park, in October.

VHS Construction Management Academy

Also this year, local students helped build a home for a family in need as part of their school curriculum.

Students in the The Villages High School’s Construction Management Academy program have been learning the trade and helping to build homes under the guidance of Bruce Haberle for the past three years. The students helped members of Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter build a home for a family in need in Lady Lake, single mother Amanda Brooks.

During the build, they planned a surprise, too: a brand new playhouse built by the students, for Brooks’s daughter, 7-year-old Emilee Carter.

Danielle Stroud, incoming president and CEO for Habitat Lake-Sumter worked alongside the family and students during the build.

“The volunteers are absolutely amazing,” Stroud said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to complete as many houses or help as many families as we do.”

Celebrating A Job Well Done

As he transitions out of his role as the local Habitat president, Adcock said receiving the Non-Profit of the Year Award in his final year with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter is the icing on the cake of

his career.

“Receiving this award is an honor that is the result of so many contributions,” he said. “Whether someone was a sponsor, a donor, a volunteer, a board member or staff member, this award proves that, collectively, we can make a difference and build a community that is vibrant and sustainable for future generations.”

Stroud said she also is pleased with the award and hopes it won’t be the last.

“We were so excited to receive such an honor, and we can’t wait to see what the future brings,” she said. “Under my leadership, I plan to expand the mission to help many more families in need and continue helping families achieve all their dreams they feel they could never fulfill.”

Staff writer Garrett Shiflet contributed to this report.