By Matt Wiley

With all of the residential communities located within minutes of the Shops at Wiregrass mall, it may seem strange to see a home actually being built at the busy shopping destination. However, the construction of the house is part of a project by Habitat for Humanity (HFH) of East & Central Pasco that, upon its completion, will be deconstructed and moved to its permanent location, where a family in need will get to call it their home.

Beginning on May 17 at the mall, a group of volunteers from HFH of East & Central Pasco, part of the non-profit Christian ministry that builds homes for families in need worldwide, took part in “Raise the Roof,” an event that began constructing the walls of what will become the first HFH home built in the Wesley Chapel area.

“This Wesley Chapel home will be this HFH chapter’s 120th home to date,” said Stephanie Black, director of development and public relations for Habitat of East & Central Pasco, which previously has built and rehabilitated homes in Dade City, Zephyrhills, Lacoochee and Land O’ Lakes.

Black explained that land prices have been the issue that has kept HFH from building in the Wesley Chapel area, until now. Recently, she says, Pasco County Community Development donated a building lot to HFH in the Angus Valley area of Wesley Chapel.

“We hope this home and the occupants will always be examples of what can be accomplished through caring people and the HFH program,” she said. “Habitat doesn’t give away homes; it gives opportunity.”

The event challenged local businesses and individuals to help eliminate poverty housing by donating some time, sweat and a few dollars to help build a quality home for a local family in need.

Once the project is completed at the Shops at Wiregrass, the walls will be deconstructed in sections and then transported to the home’s permanent site on Brahma Dr. in Angus Valley, located off Old Pasco Rd., north of S.R. 54, an area in which HFH hopes to have more land donated for future homes.

Once the 1,100-sq.-ft., 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home is completed at its permanent site, Daisy Soto and her two young sons, Oswaldo, 6, and Carlos, 9, will move in.

“This is awesome,” Soto said during the first day of the event that ultimately would result in the construction of a permanent home for her family. “We’re very excited.”

Soto, a single mom and Saddlebrook Resort employee, currently is renting a mobile home. Soto, too, was hard at work with the construction of the home, which is part of the deal for HFH home recipients, as is having to help with other Habitat projects.

“(HFH) helps hard-working families purchase a simple, decent home of their own,” Black explained. “Habitat uses volunteer labor to help keep costs down, and then sells the home to the recipient with no down payment and a zero-percent-interest mortgage.”

The mortgage payments, which the homeowner is responsible for paying over 30 years, go toward building additional homes. So, HFH homeowners pay it forward, literally, helping other families in need get into a decent home with each payment.

The Habitat event drew extensive support from the community in the form of donations and sponsors, especially from Wesley Chapel Toyota & Honda, which are both located off S.R. 54, on different sides of I-75.

“HFH is one of best philanthropic opportunities in the area for us,” said Eric Johnson, director of community relations for Wesley Chapel Toyota & Honda. “We take a very hands-on approach to charity work, so HFH is perfect because it allows us to get out there in the community and learn to work together. Instead of only writing a check, donating time to HFH provides a real experience.”


Johnson said that he has been working with HFH since Black came in and purchased a vehicle a few years ago.

“I was looking for another charity option for the dealerships,” he said. “I had heard that she had come in, and I had done some HFH work in college, so we got to talking and it worked out perfectly.”

Johnson said that the dealership’s decision to sponsor “Raise the Roof” was due in part to finding out that it would be the first HFH home in the Wesley Chapel area.

“We’ve done so much with HFH that we decided to sponsor the home,” Johnson explained. “We’ll be sending employees out frequently to work on it once it gets moved to its final location. However, at Friday’s ‘Raise the Roof’ event, we had the managers out (at Wiregrass) helping out, and the accountants on Saturday!”

Other sponsors of “Raise the Roof” included Florida Medical Clinic’s Foundation of Caring, (who sent out a mini crew) Batson-Cook Construction, Wells Fargo Bank, Zephyrhills Water, First National Bank of Pasco, SunTrust Bank, Sign-A-Rama of New Tampa, Ierna’s Heating & Cooling and Honeybaked Ham of Wesley Chapel.

Since 1994, HFH of East & Central Pasco has been building homes throughout Pasco County. In addition to building the houses, the organization also runs two discount home improvement stores called “ReStores,” which sell heavily discounted new and gently-used home-building supplies. Black said that most of the items for sale are donated by local retail businesses, building contractors, suppliers and giving individuals. ReStore even offers free pickup of the donated items six days per week in all of east and central Pasco County.

Black explained that, through a new partnership with Recycle That, LLC, an organization that collects and recycles unwanted household items, ReStores now also accept used and worn clothing, shoes, fashion accessories and linens. If the items are unable to be reused, they are recycled. Profits from the store, which has locations in both Zephyrhills and Dade City, go towards refurbishing and building new HFH homes in the east and central Pasco areas.

Another program that HFH employs is called “Cars for Homes,” which is almost exactly what it sounds like. Unwanted vehicles, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, farm or construction equipment, boats and even airplanes can be donated to HFH, whose authorized partner, Advanced Remarketing Services, Inc., handles the title transfer, towing and vehicle donation reporting before selling the car to a new owner. Proceeds made from the sale of the unwanted cars go to benefit the local chapter of HFH, in this case the HFH of East & Central Pasco.

For more information, please call (352) 567-1444 or visit

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