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A Veteran's Story of Home, History and Habitat

Construction Manager Steve Reinfeldt, homeowner Lonnie Dixon and Dick Perucci from Our Next Mission (Laura Coyle, and image by Laura Coyle

Pictured, right: Construction Manager Steve Reinfeldt, homeowner Lonnie Dixon and Dick Perucci from Our Next Mission

Homeowner Lonnie Dixon served in the military for three decades. Now he lives in a small home in Bradenton, and on Saturday, Manatee Habitat for Humanity team leaders and volunteers made exterior repairs and painted the entire house. Veterans from Our Next Mission and student athletes from State College of Florida armed with tape, rollers, brushes and a new front door made a quick and happy day of it.

In 1954, Lonnie Dixon fought in Korea as an Army artillery section leader and after a two-year tour, returned home to Florida. He joined the Army Reserves, and six years later, he helped make history as one of a small group of African American men to be the first to integrate into the Florida National Guard. Lonnie is now in his eighties, having retired in 1985. He needs help maintaining his small home, but stands tall – exactly the way one would expect from a lifelong military man – as he speaks with gratitude of the support and friendship as he has found with the volunteers and fellow veterans from Manatee Habitat and their home rehabilitation partners from Our Next Mission.

Manatee Habitat is known for building houses but are unique in that they also provide major repairs for homeowners allowing them to remain safely in their homes and improve their quality of life. Veterans Jim Cullum and Bob Seller of Our Next Mission contacted Diana Shoemaker, CEO at Manatee Habitat about the rehabilitation program and a new partnership was formed. With Veteran's Day just around the corner, the organizations hope to draw attention to veterans in our community who need help.
"We are honored to help veterans and partner with such a great team," said Shoemaker. "It is heartwarming to see the camaraderie among the veterans and volunteers and rewarding to watch our community grow stronger – together – one home at a time.

The two organizations are also hosting an event called "A Celebration of Service" on Veteran's Day, Monday, November 11, from 6-9 p.m. at Gold Coast Eagle Distributing in Lakewood Ranch. Southern BBQ will be served and "Nothin' Past Midnite & the Dave Lewis Singers" will perform live music. The event sponsor is Budweiser and proceeds benefit Manatee Habitat Veteran Home Rehab Program.

Information about Manatee Habitat's Home Rehab Program partners Our Next Mission can be found at

Manatee County Habitat Announces Project in Collaboration with State College of Florida MLK Day of Service

Manatee Habitat joins State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota to transform the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into a day on, not a day off. Manatee Habitat will install free smoke detectors for eligible homeowners in the Samoset neighborhood.

mlk day service 2019

Building on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of the “Beloved Community,” Manatee County Habitat for Humanity announced plans today to honor King’s legacy through a series of projects in the Samoset community. Over the next year, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity International and The King Center’s MLK 50 Forward initiative, Manatee County Habitat for Humanity is renewing and strengthening its commitment to build a world where everyone has a decent place to live and the opportunity for a better future.  

Through funding from the Florida Legislature and State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF), Manatee Habitat will join a nationwide effort to transform the federal holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into a day in which people make a difference in their communities.  

For MLK Day of Service 2019, Manatee Habitat, in partnership with United Way Suncoast, the Samoset Neighborhood Association, and Southern Manatee Fire & Rescue, will install free smoke detectors for eligible homeowners on Saturday, Jan 19th, 2019. Samoset residents may sign up with Habitat to participate in this free safety program, which includes a free smoke detector, free emergency preparedness kit, and a fire safety demonstration at the Oasis Community Center in Samoset. A community cook out will follow. Manatee Habitat recently announced the Samoset neighborhood to be the site of their fourth housing development, Poling Gardens. The planned 17 home development will provide much needed affordable housing to families in need of safe and secure housing. Poling Gardens is currently in the planning process and will begin construction in 2020.  

This effort will build on work being performed by other Habitats across the country undertaking Beloved Community projects, including the construction of new affordable homes, critical home repairs and community revitalization initiatives. 

“In 2018, as we mark the 50th anniversaries of Dr. King’s tragic death and the passage of the Fair Housing Act, we renew our pledge to make the concept of a Beloved Community a reality,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “This will never be a world of equality, of fairness, of human decency that leaves no room for poverty or prejudice or violence, unless we build it. And so we build.”  

Habitat is partnering with The King Center in Atlanta as it marks the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. 

“With every new home that Habitat for Humanity builds, we move one step closer to my father’s vision of the Beloved Community,” said Dr. Bernice A. King. “Since its founding, Habitat for Humanity has been lifting families up through God’s love and showing them the path to take control of their lives through homeownership. This year, we’re going to have an even more powerful voice for those families and future homeowners so that one day, everyone lives in the Beloved Community with agape love.” 

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity invites others to join in pledging to help build the Beloved Community and joining us for the MLK Day of Service 2019. Samoset residents interested in participating in the fire safety program may contact Crystal Frazer, Community Outreach Manager, at (941) 748-9100 ext. 116.

Manatee Habitat holds International Women's Day luncheon

by Pam Eubanks, Your Observer


Sarasota business woman Teresa Mast has faced challenges in her life, from running a construction business through the housing recession of 2008-2009 to health problems to losing family members.

But, she said, it’s all been a part of her finding her path. When troubles arose, she chose to believe in herself and get to work and said other women should do the same.

Mast, who owned her own construction company for 26 years, gave the keynote speech for Habitat for Humanity of Manatee County’s International Women’s Day luncheon March 8 at The Grove, in Lakewood Ranch.

After citing statistics that 60% of America’s workforce is women, yet only 10% of women are CEOs or business owners, Mast encouraged the roughly 100 attendees — mostly women — to work together, encourage one another and recognize each other’s strengths.

“Everyone in this room has walked a path. We as women have very unique talents, unique gifts,” she said. “I say create a culture of success. I want people around me who are smarter than me. Be confidently humble.”

She also encouraged women to be generous with whatever they have, whether finances, time or abilities.

“If you are able to be as generous as you can be, you will reap more,” she said.

After Mast’s speech, Habitat for Humanity’s Executive Director Diana Shoemaker awarded Habitat homeowner Yesenia Garcia-Lorenzano with Habitat’s “Achievement Award.” A Mexican immigrant-turned-U.S. citizen, Garcia Lorenzano has been a Habitat homeowner for more than a year and credits Habitat for providing her family stability and confidence.

Habitat for Humanity of Manatee County has hosted its International Women’s Day luncheon for four years. Shoemaker said the day is about celebrating women’s social, economic and political achievements.

“We believe enabling women can go a long way,” Shoemaker said.

Match From The Patterson Foundation Kickstarts Manatee Habitat for Humanity's Entrepreneurial Plan Fundraising

new restore exterior 1024x1024MANATEE, Fla. (Nov. 27, 2018) – The Patterson Foundation will match startup capital investments to Manatee County Habitat for Humanity ReStore for the implementation of its new earned-income plan. Through Margin & Mission Ignition, Manatee County Habitat for Humanity has developed an entrepreneurial plan to strengthen its mission impact in the region. Donations and investments contributed to Manatee County Habitat for Humanity will be matched dollar for dollar by The Patterson Foundation up to 50 percent of its startup capital requirement – up to $50,000 maximum – through Feb. 15, 2019.

The staff and select board members of Manatee Habitat developed the earned-income plan through its participation in Margin & Mission Ignition, an initiative of The Patterson Foundation for nonprofits that strengthens their mission impact through exploring, developing and executing entrepreneurial principles. Nonprofits are selected to participate in Margin & Mission Ignition through a months-long application period before entering a 30-month planning and implementation process. Manatee County Habitat for Humanity is one of five nonprofits receiving consultation on strategies to increase revenue from No Margin, No Mission, a social enterprise and national consulting firm engaged by The Patterson Foundation.

“I was thrilled to learn on top of all the coaching we have received through the Margin & Mission Ignition Initiative, The Patterson Foundation is providing a match to double the impact of the donations received to implement our new business plan at our ReStore thrift store,” said Diana Shoemaker, Executive Director of Manatee County Habitat for Humanity. “We will use the funds raised to invest in our ReStore operation to increase income and expand our mission to build more sustainable, affordable homes.”

The goal of the 3-year business is to strategically increase the ReStore income sufficiently to build five additional homes over three years. Manatee County Habitat for Humanity is looking to raise $130,000 in growth capital. The funds will be used to create sustainable growth through improved marketing and branding, outreach to new target markets, billboard and radio advertising, logistics and point of purchase software, and equipment. The organization recently opened a new 33,000 sq. ft. ReStore in central Bradenton and is well positioned to implement the new plan. The need for affordable housing for working families in Manatee County is great and increasing the ReStore revenue is essential to the ability to serve more families.

During a recent fast-pitch-style event presented by The Patterson Foundation, Manatee County Habitat for Humanity shared its earned-income plan with potential investors. In addition to the match, The Patterson Foundation is investing $25,000 in Manatee County Habitat for Humanity to help it develop earned-income strategies.

“Through Margin & Mission Ignition, these organizations have embarked on a journey toward greater thrivability, which will ultimately boost their community impact,” said Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation. “The Patterson Foundation’s dollar for dollar match affirms the merits of the mission-aligned business plans.”

Visit to learn more about The Patterson Foundation’s Margin & Mission Ignition initiative or join the conversation using #TPFMarginMission on social media.