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Can Washington Park community come together? Agencies not so sure

NOVEMBER 10, 2017 4:00 PM by Mark Young

“Love thy neighbor” is something Washington Park resident May Lizzie Jennings takes to heart within her impoverished East Bradenton neighborhood.

But if her neighbors aren’t willing to get together to know more about one another and become a community willing to better their neighborhood, that love isn’t being returned in a way Jennings hopes it will be.

Since Jennings’ efforts to clean up and revitalize the Washington Park community captured the attention of Habitat for Humanity’s Didi Boyd Hager this past summer, efforts have been underway to make it a community-wide investment. But few in the neighborhood have come forward to make that happen.

Monthly meetings in the community to try to determine what the neighborhood needs to spur progress have seen a coalition of various agencies wanting to help far outnumber the residents who attend. Coalition members include Bradenton police officers, Habitat for Humanity, Manatee County Veteran Services, Manatee County Neighborhood Services, West Bradenton Crime Watch and more.

Iris Gonzalez, senior manager of state government affairs for Charter Communications and Spectrum, also was on hand to give away free home safety kits. Gonzalez said Spectrum heard of the efforts underway in Washington Park, “and wanted to team up with Habitat. I’m excited to be here to have an opportunity to give the safety kits to the community.”

But only a handful of children and their older brother attended. The old adage of you can’t help those who are unwilling to help themselves isn’t stopping a coalition determined to make a difference. But a new strategy is needed.

“We know what doesn’t work, so we need to try something else,” Jennings said.

Hager said a good coalition is in place, “So how do we get the homeowners involved with the coalition? You can’t complain about what’s wrong in your neighborhood if you aren’t willing to come out and do something about it.”

Bradenton Police Capt. John Affolter said he is “shocked” to see the lack of involvement, “in a neighborhood screaming for help,” and suggested the coalition get back to the basics. Affolter said neighborhoods aren’t like they used to be where everyone knows each other and suggested creating events to bring the neighborhood together rather than trying to attract people to meetings.

The coalition will plan a community-wide scavenger hunt, perhaps on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that will encourage participants to host scavenger items and get neighbors knocking on neighbors’ doors.

“That’s where it starts,” Hager said. “It starts with getting to know your neighbors and hopefully we can pick up and start fresh in January.”

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Join us for a Women Build Home Dedication

brittany house

Join us for a Manatee County Habitat for Humanity Home Dedication of the Women Build
Saturday, Nov. 4th

2214 10th St. West
Bradenton, Florida FL 34205
Please join Manatee County Habitat for Humanity at the Home Dedication for Brittany Holley and her family. Come celebrate her accomplishments of becoming a Habitat home buyer with her friends, family, fellow Habitat volunteers, donors and sponsors. This event marks the end of a two year  endeavor and the beginning of a new future in a safe and stable home.

Many people participated on the Women Build and we anticipate a good turnout.  
Please RSVP to Amy Van Dell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so we can plan appropriately.

Street parking on 10th and 11th St. West is available and carpooling is encouraged.

Manatee Habitat for Humanity and Bank of America partnered to build a home in Bradenton as part of fourth Global Build

Mike McCoy Britnie Mayhew and Diana Shoemaker

Mike McCoy, Britnie Mayhew, and Diana Shoemaker

Bradenton, Fla. (Oct. 5, 2017) – Manatee County Habitat for Humanity and Bank of America came together in the Bradenton as part of Bank of America’s fourth Global Build in partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Bank of America employee volunteers worked alongside homeowners to help build, rehabilitate or repairs homes, helping to address affordable housing needs.

“When families have access to affordable housing, they’re more likely to have long-term financial stability,” said Mike McCoy, Sarasota/Manatee market president, Bank of America. “Our employees enjoy partnering with Habitat for Humanity and the future homeowner to help them gain economic mobility and build a thriving Bradenton community.”

The Bradenton home build comes as part of the fourth Habitat Global Build (#GlobalBuild) that marks the bank’s more than 30-year commitment to Habitat for Humanity. Between September 30 and October 7, more than 2,500 Bank of America employee volunteers, Habitat for Humanity colleagues, and families are working together on builds and revitalization projects that help families achieve the dream of homeownership. Projects will take place in more than 88 communities across six countries, including the U.S.

“Bank of America has been a long-standing partner with Manatee Habitat and we always enjoy working with their team and appreciate their support,” said Diana Shoemaker, Executive Director, Manatee County Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity purchases land for affordable housing

roger interview


MANATEE - Manatee County Habitat for Humanity is eying its fourth planned multi-unit affordable housing development on 3 acres of land in Samoset, and will be looking to the community for help.

With a history of building or rehabbing single-unit homes in low-income neighborhoods, the agency has broadened its vision over the years to work on larger developments. The most recent one, Hope Landing in Ellenton, was completed in 2015.

Hopes are high to begin construction on the Samoset property by 2019, but there is much to do.

The three acres at the end of 32nd Avenue East off of Ninth Street East has long been vacant and at one time, was a tomato farm. It has belonged to the Poling family for decades and they wanted the property to be put to good use.

“They approached us about a year ago,” said Roger Arnholt, president of Habitat’s board of directors. “They had a real interest in affordable housing and this was a way to mesh their interest with ours to achieve our shared goal.”

Habitat closed on the property on Monday after completing all of the necessary soil testing.

“I am very happy that our family farm will be used to provide homes for families through Manatee Habitat,” said Caroline Poling Steward, on behalf of herself and brother Delbert Poling.

Habitat is looking to raise $700,000 to make the development happen, including the initial infrastructure. The development will feature a community garden because the area is considered to be a food desert, meaning there is no quality, affordable fresh foods in at least a mile from the site. There is an elementary and high school in the area, which appealed to Habitat. Arnholt said the majority of residents served are families with school-aged children.

Amy Van Delt, resource development manager for Habitat, said the low-income neighborhood also is one of three areas in Manatee County targeted for affordable housing.

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity is one of the few nonprofit agencies that have won national awards for also building green communities and the new Poling Gardens community will be built in the same model.

Though early in the process and with site planning still left to do, Arnholt expects the development to have about 15 single-family homes. Besides filling a crucial gap in the county’s affordable housing needs, Habitat likes the larger developments because they create a sense of shared needs that tend to bring the community together in taking pride in home ownership.

“It creates an entire community of people that come together with a shared commitment to not only themselves, but their children,” Arnholt said. “We love doing the single-family infill projects and we are doing those now in Washington Park and Village of the Arts. But when you can build a community with shared aspects, then it becomes something pretty special.”

Van Delt said the mantra used to be breaking the cycle of poverty, but it’s more about breaking the cycle of multi-generational renting.

“You have generations of families who have never owned a home,” she said.

Habitat will be seeking corporate sponsors and donations and holding fund-raising events to raise the money needed for the development.

A community kickoff event will take place at the 3 Keys Brewing at 2505 Manatee Ave. E. from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 30 at 3 Keys Brewing, 2505 Manatee Ave. E. The restaurant will donate 10 percent of the proceeds to Habitat, which will be on site to inform the community about the new development and garner community support.

Check as those details emerge or call 941-748-9100 to find out more.

Mark Young: 941-745-7041, @urbanmark2014

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