Volunteers for the Pinellas County chapter of the national nonprofit agency are building two more houses in the organization’s Stevens Creek subdivision.
CLEARWATER — Habitat for Humanity is known across the nation for building quality homes for low-income families. The projects normally take eight weeks to complete and utilize dozens of volunteers, including the future homeowners.
But a few years ago, the Pinellas County chapter of the nonprofit organization decided to speed up construction with the annual Blitz Build, which compresses the process into a week and shines a spotlight on Habitat for Humanity’s legion of volunteers.
The sixth annual Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County’s Blitz Build began on Valentine’s Day in the agency’s Stevens Creek subdivision off North Betty Lane just south of Sunset Point Road and will conclude with a dedication ceremony on Sunday.
This year, instead of building just one home, hundreds of workers will be constructing a pair of houses — one for Freda Dixon and her daughter, and another for the Hubbard-Lapos family.
“The Blitz Build will see over 300 volunteers coming out over a seven-day period to complete one entire house and build the other home to 75 percent completion,” said Robin Macar, vice president of communications for Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County.
“We do this to remind people how important volunteers are to the Habitat mission and as a way to spotlight and highlight our volunteers’ efforts.”
There are roughly 10,000 volunteers in the local Habitat database, agency official said, and Blitz Build brings out the best of the bunch.
In fact, those selected to participate had to pay $25 because Blitz Build also serves as a fundraiser for the organization.
Volunteer coordinator Linzy Wilson said the challenge of pulling all the workers together is multiplied this year because of the dual build.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge coordinating so many people in such a short period of time,” she said. “We need to have a particular number of volunteers to show up here on each given day.
“But we get energized by it. There are so many people behind our mission. It’s the lifeblood of what we do.”
One Blitz Build volunteer in particular epitomized what that commitment to Habitat is all about.
Madeira Beach resident Dawn Ferrante not only spent her Valentine’s Day working on the volunteer team, but the first day of the build also was her birthday.
“This is what I wanted to do on my birthday,” Ferrante, a bookkeeper who has been volunteering for Habitat for more than five years, said during a break in hammering two-by-fours.
“It’s good to give back to the community. I have two young kids, and I want to show them it’s not all about us. It’s about giving back.”
While volunteers are the “heartbeat of Habitat,” according to the organization’s motto, the souls of the projects are the future homeowners.
Each family selected to be a Habitat homeowner must undergo a strict application and approval process; they’re required to take 15 classes and put in a certain number of hours working at the construction site as well.
In fact, the reason the Hubbard-Lapos home won’t be 100 percent finished at the end of the week is because the family cannot participate in the build right now.
But all the hard work and detailed homeowner training is worth it in Freda Dixon’s opinion.
The single mom will move into one of the Blitz Build homes on Sunday with her daughter, Shayla, on a day that holds a significant place in her heart.
“I applied back in March, and in December I was approached to see if I wanted to be part of the Blitz Build,” Dixon said from the home site. “They picked one of these two days, and when I saw the 22nd, my mom’s birthday, I knew it was meant to be. She died 11 years ago, and that date just solidified it.
“It just feels great; I am so blessed. I’m even more appreciative because I can say I helped do this. It’s truly overwhelming.”