Habitat marks 30 years of providing homes, hope


Habitat for Humanity of St. Augustine/St. Johns County celebrated 30 years of providing homes and hope at its Volunteer and Donor Appreciation Dinner on Oct. 24 at The White Room in St. Augustine. The organization is driven by the belief that everyone deserves a decent place to live, and every year, its donors and volunteers help people realize that dream.

Executive Director Malinda Everson greeted the many in attendance and introduced St. Johns County Commissioners Roy Alaimo, Sarah Arnold and Henry Dean; Sheriff Robert Hardwick; City of St. Augustine Commissioner Cynthia Garris; and (then-interim) St. Johns County Administrator Joy Andrews.

Alaimo told the assembled donors and volunteers that they were an inspiration to the Board of County Commissioners. Alaimo, an advocate for affordable housing, serves as the board’s liaison with the Housing Finance Authority.

“The Titanic was built by professionals, but the Ark was built by volunteers,” he said. “You are keeping people’s dreams of homeownership afloat.”

Habitat’s board treasurer Craig Carroll said that, in the past year alone, more than 200 volunteers provided more than 3,500 hours of labor and donors contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars.

One of those donors, Inez McDonald, donated $100,000 toward a new, 36-home neighborhood being developed by the organization, Volusia Woods, which will be located in West Augustine.

Everson said McDonald has donated a total $200,000 over the years in support of Habitat’s work. McDonald was presented a street sign with her name on it in anticipation that one day the actual sign will be placed in the development.

Also recognized was St. Augustine Distillery and co-founders Michael Diaz and Philip McDaniel, for providing volunteers and sponsoring five homes.

Site Supervisor Beth Ellis recognized several volunteers.

Carroll reminded attendees that there was more work to do.

“We’re all very well aware of the many challenges of affordable housing in our community,” he said. “The need is great and growing. As we commemorate this milestone, let’s remember our work is far from over.”