By Suzanne Schmidt
Since the January merger of Central Pasco and East Pasco Habitat for Humanity, the organization has been trying to find a way to get their message out.
John Finnerty, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of East and Central Pasco, said he wants people to know there is help available.
“We are trying to keep children from having to sleep on floors or in leaky houses,” Finnerty said. “This is not just a problem for low-income families, there are hardworking, honest people who can’t make it on their own. We want to work with people to get them into simple, decent housing.”
To further their goal of reaching out to the community, the organization hired Jerry Sterner and Ed Blommel to work part time in the Land O’ Lakes area.
Jerry Sterner is the new director of community relations for Habitat. He recently retired from Florida Hospital Zephyrhills.
“The key is to get out and meet with people,” Sterner said. “I am going to make presentations about Habitat and all the wonderful things it does. The homes we replace are not satisfactory at all. We build decent beautiful homes that people can be proud of. It helps the economy and it helps families. Habitat is changing the lives of people all over the world.”
Sterner will be working out of the new office in Lutz, 1523 N. Dale Mabry Highway. He said he is looking forward to seeing more homes built in the Land O’ Lakes community.
“At the dedications there is not a dry eye in the group,” Sterner said. “The home owner grows close to the community and the community to them. It is a privilege to be able to work with this community.”
The organization is currently searching for a location to build a ReStore in Land O’ Lakes. The store will sell donated building materials, furniture and appliances.
“We get donations from Lowe’s and Home Depot and reduce the prices and sell them,” Finnerty said. “It is a great way for people who can’t afford to go to the big box stores to be able to fix up their homes.”
Blommel is the new director of retail for Habitat. It is his job to open a ReStore in Land O’ Lakes. He recently retired from Tampa Electric.
“I am working with realtors and investors to find a location here in the Land O’ Lakes area,” Blommel said. “Though, it has proven to not be the easiest task, things are looking very promising now.”
The ReStore in Land O’ Lakes will be similar to the one already established in Dade City, 14940 Citrus County Drive.
“We try not to be a thrift store because there are enough good stores around and we don’t want to compete with them,” Blommel said. “We have had one in Dade City for five years and that has been very successful.”
Blommel said the ReStore serves several purposes.
“We go to houses that will be torn down and take out things like the fixtures, appliances, cabinets and fans,” Blommel said. “It helps to keep that stuff out of landfills and it gives people a good deal. Habitat uses the ReStore to cover administrative overhead. When someone donates money to Habitat, it is because they want it to go towards a home for a family.””
Blommel is looking forward to the future of Habitat.
“We are excited to be in the Land O’ Lakes area,” Blommel said. “Land O’ Lakes is growing. There are a lot of good opportunities to partner with the business community and a lot of people to help.”
The two organizations merged to combine their efforts so they can help more people. In the past 10 years, the Central Pasco Habitat for Humanity built four homes and the East Pasco Habitat for Humanity built 73 homes.
Finnerty said he is looking forward to working with the community.
“We are excited about being able to come over and join the community and help where we can,” Finnerty said. “We have a big job ahead of us. We are serving the community from the Suncoast Parkway all the way east. We will be covering about two-thirds of the county.”
Habitat for Humanity of East and Central Pasco will continue to operate from the Dade City office, 15000 Citrus County Drive, Suite 420. For information call (352) 567-1444 or visit ephabitat.org.