Recent News

Manatee Habitat Celebrates 25 Years

Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac addressed crowds at Bradenton Riverwalk Nov. 9 who were gathered to help celebrate Manatee County Habitat for Humanity’s 25th birthday. As she read a proclamation, the excited voices of children could be heard as they built birdhouses and learned how to use hammers and nails. When finished, she said, “We never want to quiet the sounds of children building something” to laughter and applause from the crowd.

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Highlights of the party included hearing from the people involved in Manatee Habitat’s very first home build including Susie Walters, the organization’s founding president; Dick Gross from Kiwanis Bradenton, who helped fund the first home; and the very first Manatee Habitat homebuyer Hilda Futch Reaves, whose mortgage is now paid off. Event sponsor Bank of America’s Mike McCoy, who is the current Kiwanis Bradenton president, also worked on that first home as a volunteer.

Several Habitat homeowners celebrated by shredding their mortgages, now paid in full, and the winner of the Habitat ReStore Family Room Makeover was announced. Giant Jenga and Corn Hole Toss games as well as tours of a Bradenton Fire Department truck added to the fun, and representatives from the Manatee County Neighborhood Services, City of Bradenton, Bradenton Kiwanis, Manatee Technical College, United Way Suncoast and others provided information about the services the community offers. It Works! Foundation was the presenting sponsor of the event.

To donate, volunteer, or learn more about Manatee County Habitat for Humanity, visit or call 941-748-9100.

– by Laura Coyle

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 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.

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.

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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.