One Pinellas County woman desperately needed her own home. So nearly 150 women made it possible.
Altamease Mack, a local Hospice care team assistant, is cherishing the keys to a brand-new Habitat for Humanity house at 7265 34th Ave. N., St. Petersburg.
It even comes with its own name: Girl PowerHouse. That’s because it was built in eight weeks by a team of all female volunteers, and funded by Habitat Pinellas’ women’s philanthropy group, Hammers & Heels, led by honorary chair Judy Mitchell, former president and owner of Peter R. Brown Construction. This is the group’s first dedicated project.
Even Mack got involved, putting in Habitat’s required 20 courses and 250 “sweat equity” hours.
“We were overwhelmed by the response,” says Linzy Wilson, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County
. “There was such energy and excitement to be part of this.” She says Hammer & Heels members, now at 56, hope to make this an annual project.
The project drew a diverse group, from women in their 20s up to 70s. Some even decorated their hardhats in the spirit of Girl PowerHouse. One group decided the on-site Porta-Potty needed a little sprucing up, adding pink towels, a mirror and hand soap to the unit.
Mack had to be approved for a special interest-free loan provided for qualifying Habitat recipients, making home ownership possible for those living on a modest income. Construction on Habitat homes doesn’t begin until the chosen homeowner is approved and has begun required volunteer hours.
Previously, Mack and her 2-year-old daughter lived in a cramped single room in her mother’s three-bedroom house, along with six other people. It was so crowded, their clothing and other belongings were kept in an exterior storage closet on the back patio.
Wilson says the mortgage rates for these affordable homes will run about $650 to $700 a month – lower than most rental properties.
The property for Mack’s home was donated to Habitat Pinellas by Bank of America as part of a national partnership with Habitat for Humanity International
through which the bank donates vacant properties for renovation or reconstruction.
“It’s safe to say Altamease is going to have a very happy Christmas,” Wilson says.