Lifting Up Lives Together

The nearly two-year collaboration of the resources of United Against Poverty, Indian River County Habitat for Humanity and the Samaritan Center were celebrated Saturday, May 13. Sarah Williams was presented with her new three-bedroom home that she purchased at the Waterside Community in the Oslo neighborhood of Vero Beach.

Nearly two years ago, Sarah arrived at the Samaritan Center with her three-year-old son De’Andre and pregnant with her daughter De’Asia. She had no money, no food and no housing. She and her family have lived at the Samaritan Center since then.

To purchase a home with Habitat, the potential owner needs to be gainfully employed, spend 300 or more hours working on building Habitat homes, save at least $100 a month and attend financial literacy and homeowner education classes.

Samaritan Center introduced Sarah to United Against Poverty (UP), whose tenet is a “hand up not a hand out.” Over the next several weeks, Sarah was enrolled in UP’s Success Training for Employment Program (STEP) classes.

“Sarah successfully completed 120 hours of classroom training, including Emotional Intelligence Training, job acquisition skills and Work Skills Certifications,” says UP Executive Director Annabel Robertson. She then worked with a STEP Job Developer and Success Job Coach and within a few months Piper Aircraft hired her as an Operations Coordinator.

“Habitat and its numerous volunteers, including Sarah, built Sarah’s home and we provide a mortgage that the owner can afford to pay,” says Eve Kyomya, community development director for Habitat for Humanity in Indian River County. To date, according to Indian River Habitat President and CEO Andy Bowler, Sarah’s new home is the 351 home Habitat has provided for homeowners in Indian River County.

“When I came to Vero Beach, I was at a total loss. I knew I had to move from a toxic relationship for the good of my children and me,” explained Sarah. “Samaritan Center was a Godsend. Pastor Terry Pugh and the congregation of Northside Agape in Gifford was there for me, too. United Against Poverty treated me with the respect I craved and the discipline I needed to be useful to an employer. And the love I felt at Habitat as I worked with other volunteers on other people’s homes, as well as my own, encouraged me that one day I would be an owner of my own home.”

Renee Bireley, program administrator for Samaritan Center in Vero Beach, emphasized at Sarah’s homeowner celebration the uniqueness of the successful collaboration among United Against Poverty, Samaritan Center and Habitat for Humanity. “Our community is blessed that all three organizations put Sarah and her family’s well being, and others who find themselves in similar untenable situations, as our primary objective. Collaboration and cooperation lifts lives.”

Photo Caption: Sarah Williams cuts the ribbon for her new home. (l to r) Barbara Lowry, chair, United Against Poverty, Renee Bireley, program administrator for Samaritan Center, Eve Kyomya, community development director, Habitat for Humanity, Sarah, her daughter De’Asia and son De’Andre, and Annabel Robertson, executive director, United Against Poverty.