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This Earth Day, Manatee County Habitat for Humanity looks to encourage more ‘green’ homes

BY CLAIRE ARONSON / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


MANATEE - Cheryl Roth, a Manatee County Habitat for Humanity homeowner, describes living in a sustainable home as heaven.

Since July 2012, Roth, 56, and Terrill Symons, 69, have called the Hope Landing neighborhood in Ellenton home. Their house, which has solar panels on the roof as well as solar hot water, was the first residential home in Manatee County to receive the United States Green Build Council’s LEED Platinum certification.

“You are not house poor,” Roth said on a recent afternoon. “You are not spending all your money on your home. It’s energy efficient. It’s cost efficient. It doesn’t make you go crazy. There are a lot less things to worry about.”

Roth and Symons’ experience living in one of Habitat’s 25 sustainable homes in Manatee is something the nonprofit wants to highlight this Earth Day, April 22. For these families, expenses such as electricity are lower thanks to the sustainable homes.

“These people don’t have disposable income to put aside for maintenance of home,” said Bruce Winter, Manatee County Habitat for Humanity director of construction. “If we can do it for a low-income family, why isn’t it being done for everyone?”

While the extra materials to build a sustainable home may be a little more costly, the savings on electricity alone is $48 per month, according to Winter.

“We invite everyone in the community to come do it,” he said.

Sustainable, or “green,” building is constructing homes that are “efficient and durable, that use less resources, are healthy to live in and are affordable,” Habitat for Humanity materials state.

“The benefits of green homes for Habitat homeowners are many, and include saving money on utilities, hurricane protection and improve air quality,” the materials state.

Prior to living in their Habitat home, Roth and Symons were living in a trailer park in Palmetto where the electricity bill was $110 a month. Now, the monthly electricity bill averages $30.

“It’s just a gift from God,” Roth said. “I’m not real religious, but you saw God opened up doors to get in here.”

Symons regularly logs onto his laptop to check how efficiently the solar panels are working. Being green is not something new for him, as 30 years ago he put a solar panel on a school bus in California.

“I’ve been interested in this my whole life,” he said. “I’m into it. I believe in it. I vote for it.”

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity executive director Diana Shoemaker said she thinks they have a successful model for building affordable homes.

“It’s going to help our homeowner, but it’s going to help county with longevity of houses,” she said. “I think it is really about the outcome. This is an outcome that changes quality of life for community. We are hoping we are creating a model that really sustains itself in the community. We are getting good feedback on what we are doing.”

Claire Aronson: 941-745-7024, @Claire_Aronson

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New Board Members Join Manatee County Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity has added four new members to its Board of Directors. The new members bring a wealth of experience and community knowledge to the organization. They are:

Jill McGarry, Marketing Director with Blalock Walters, P. A. Jill brings fifteen years experience in local non-profit and corporate marketing. She has served in marketing, community relations and communications roles with Blalock Walters, Meals on Wheels PLUS and the Bradenton Herald. Jill is a Leadership Manatee Graduate (class of 2010-11), an active member of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce Young Professional and Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, and is Vice President of Membership of Florida Public Relations Association. She has served on the board of directors of other non-profits including the Women’s Resource Center of Manatee, Humane Society of Manatee County and Junior Leadership Manatee. Jill earned her Bachelor’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

board members newKirsten Regal, Human Resources Specialist (retired). Kirsten’s long career at Sun Hydraulics included progressive responsibilities in Human Resources including strategic planning, benefits administration and community relations. A significant part of her career focused on organizational development by implementing a unique leadership style which resulted in case studies of Sun Hydraulics approach to horizontal management by Harvard Business School. Kirsten received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from California State University at Hayward and an MBA at Colorado State. Previous non-profit board roles include: Sarasota/Manatee Workforce Board, Junior Achievement and MTI Advisory Board.

Timothy Polk, Urban Planning Solutions LLC, Managing Director. Tim has gained vast experience in his previous positions in Planning and Community Development in Little Rock, Arkansas, Atlanta, Georgia and for the past ten years as the Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Bradenton until his retirement in January of 2016. He then launched his own business, Urban Planning Solutions LLC, and brings his experience gained over four decades in architecture, urban design and planning to urban and suburban projects. Tim received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts and a Master’s of Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a Master’s of Arts from Wayne State University, Detroit Michigan. Professional affiliations include American Institute of Architects, American Planning Association, Urban Land Institute, National Trust of Historic Preservation, National Association for Housing and Development Officials and Congress for New Urbanism.

William Padelford, ESQ., Garland & Padelford, Attorneys, LLC. Bill joined Mr. Garland’s firm in 2000 and currently acts as the managing partner. He concentrates on the problems that face retirees in estate planning, trust administration, elder law and general legal issues. He often speaks on estate planning and avoiding probate. Bill received his J.D. from the University Of Florida College Of Law and is a member of the Florida Bar, Manatee County Bar Association, the Masons, the Shriners and the Kiwanis Club of Bradenton. He has provided Pro Bono services to the Red Cross, Volunteer Services of Manatee County and Manatee Youth For Christ Board of Directors.

Officers of the Board of Directors were installed at the Board meeting on March 22nd: Roger Arnholt, President, Rev. Rosemary Wheeler Backer, Vice President, Barry Berman, Treasurer and Lauren Fuller, Secretary.

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity Celebrates International Women's Day And Women Build 2017

Bradenton, Florida - March 9, 2017 Manatee County Habitat for Humanity hosted a luncheon at Renaissance on 9th to celebrate International Women’s Day and encouraged those gathered to reflect on the women who have inspired them. “This day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally and at a local level,” said Diana Shoemaker, Manatee Habitat Executive Director.

For Manatee Habitat the Women Build is a great way for women to take a proactive step in serving their communities. The goal is to empower women to help a family build strength, stability and self-reliance through sustainable housing. Women Build Co-Chair Chief Melanie Bevan, of the Bradenton Police told of her willingness to join this effort because she knows the impact Habitat for Humanity has on changing lives and communities. She expressed the feeling of being part of the Habitat family after attending just a few events.    

Brittany Holley groundbreaking
Women Build Ground Breaking for Brittany Holley. (l-r) Gary Tibbetts, Assistant to Vern Buchanan, Yvonne Ingersoll, Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy, Brittany Holley, Habitat Home Buyer, Chundra Savage (aunt), Chief Melanie Bevan, Bradenton Police, and Madeline Kates(aunt).

Brittany Holley is the home buyer who is partnering with Manatee Habitat on the Women Build. She is inspired by Chief Bevan and Yvonne Ingersoll, Manatee County Sheriff‘s Deputy who also attended the luncheon. “I am so blessed to have these ladies here for me,” Brittany said.

Brittany told how becoming a Habitat home buyer has transformed her. She shared that she did not have much family support growing up. Her mother died from complications of child birth and her father was a victim of homicide. She credits her grandmother for raising her. A single mom herself, she thought if I can just get Section 8 housing and food stamps I’ll be all right. Joining Habitat and starting her process toward home ownership changed that.

Brittany is working full-time and studying Criminal Justice at State College of Florida. “I plan on going into law enforcement and hope to be an officer living in the community I serve,” said Brittany. She reminded everyone, that Habitat home buyers are not given a house; they qualify for a zero percent mortgage after completing 300 hours of “sweat equity” alongside other Habitat partners and volunteers. Not only do applicants have to work on their own house, they complete financial literacy classes and save money to put into escrow. Another important part of the experience according to Ms. Holley is that Habitat home buyers are building and contributing as stakeholders in their community.

realtor assoc check presentation
Xena Vallone, President of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee presents a check for $5,000 for the Women Build 2017 to Diana Shoemaker, Habitat Executive Director at the International Women’s Day luncheon.

Xena Vallone, President of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee, spoke to the group and presented a check for $5,000. “We are proud to support Manatee Habitat with the 2017 Women’s Build.” said Ms. Vallone. “Not only are the homeowners blessed with a new home, but their communities are thriving thanks to the impact Habitat is making in the area.”

Many of the attendees came to get more information about participating in the Women Build. Bruce Winter, Construction Director, commented that he likes working with women volunteers because they ask questions, and take direction well. Plus they laugh a lot and really enjoy working together. The houses built by Manatee Habitat meet the highest energy standards in order to keep the home owner’s maintenance and utility costs low.

Habitat Women Build Leader Kathy Shjarback spoke about how much fun it is to build. She and her husband retired from Maryland and decided to volunteer with Manatee Habitat. “That was eleven years ago and we have worked Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays since then,” Kathy said. This will be her third Women Build and she was recognized for her volunteer leadership at the luncheon.

National Women Build Week May 6 – 14 is sponsored by Lowe’s. As a way to increase participation the Lowe’s Central Bradenton store on Cortez at 14th St. West is conducting three Saturday workshops March 11 & 25, April 8 (2-3pm) to provide knowledge and skills to help women be successful. Those wishing to participate can sign up on the Manatee Habitat Face Book page.

The Women Build is located at 2214 10th Street West in Bradenton and is on a street with other homes being built by Manatee Habitat for Humanity. Manatee Habitat is actively recruiting women to volunteer in Women Build 2017 as individuals and teams. Those interested should contact Barbara Slater, Volunteer Coordination Manager 941.748.9100 x 110 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Manatee County Habitat's Revitalization Effort in Washington Park Earns Public Service Award from Keep Manatee Beautiful

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity received an award from Keep Manatee Beautiful for its revitalization work with the residents of Washington Park in Bradenton. The award recognized Manatee Habitat for its partnership with the resident group “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” during the MLK Service Day in 2016.
“We are happy to receive this recognition of our partnership with Washington Park residents from Keep Manatee Beautiful.  It is a tribute to the importance of joining together and having pride in your community,” said Diana Shoemaker, Executive Director for Manatee County Habitat for Humanity.

2Ingrid McClelland KMB and Diana Shoemaker Manatee County Habitat for Humanity with 2016 KMB Award
Ingrid McClelland and Diana Shoemaker with 2016 KMB Award

Habitat for Humanity is known for building affordable, sustainable houses for families in need but it has also expanded its mission to include Neighborhood Revitalization. “Broadening our mission to include working with communities to determine with the residents what is most important to them is the basis for Neighborhood Revitalization,” said Diana Shoemaker. “We have built relationships with the residents of Washington Park by working together in this community over the last three years and we look forward to continuing to work together.”

Both organizations received Martin Luther King Day of Service grants in 2016 and used their grants to work together in this community.  “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” purchased lawn equipment for their yard clean-up program and Manatee Habitat identified a Washington Park resident for an exterior repair and painting project called a “Brush with Kindness.”  

Manatee Habitat and Washington Park’s “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” are planning more joint projects together to address the goals of the residents and increase participation in the neighborhood group.  For more information contact DiDi Hager at 748-9100.

Manatee County Habitat for Humanity Dedicates New Home in Bradenton

Bradenton, Florida (February 7, 2016) – Manatee County Habitat for Humanity dedicated a new home in Bradenton on Saturday, Feb. 4th. “The thing I treasure about a dedication is that it brings together the community that made this happen,” said Diana Shoemaker, Executive Director of Manatee County Habitat for Humanity.

The new home owner is Yesenia Garcia who entered the Habitat Home Buyer program November 21, 2014 and has been working steadily towards achieving the goal of home ownership. She and her three children were very excited about the completion of their new home and the many people who came out to share the moment. “I am so happy I will have own my own home for my children that is safe and that I can afford,” Yesenia said.

Many of the sponsors who provided funding for the construction of the house were on hand to congratulate Yesenia. “Our involvement takes on a whole new meaning when we can meet the deserving individuals and families who benefit from such a caring community!” said Michael McCoy, Bank of America Market President, Sarasota-Manatee.

Tony Griffin and Shirlene Sze, with Tropicana brought a housewarming gift of supplies for the new homeowner. Tony Griffin is also a member of the Habitat Board of Directors. Gina White and Robin Wentz of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee which provided a grant attended the dedication. Roger Boos, President of Manatee Reads which is a partner of Manatee Habitat donated books for family.

A red wagon loaded with gifts for Yesenia, her two daughters and young son was donated by employees of Wells Fargo which also helped fund the home construction. “When we all volunteered and worked on the house back in September we decided we wanted to do something for the family when it was finished,” said Sandy Martin, of Wells Fargo.

Yesenia’s family represents the 126th Habitat family to become a first time home buyer through Manatee County Habitat for Humanity.   She worked on her home with Habitat volunteers each week since construction started in July. In addition, as part of the Habitat Home Buyer program, Yesenia has participated in home ownership and financial education classes.

Her home is also the 100th house built under the supervision Bruce Winter, Manatee Habitat Construction Director.  It is the first of several Habitat homes being built in the City of Bradenton near Village of the Arts. Manatee County Habitat for Humanity received funds through a Community Block Grant and purchased vacant lots in this neighborhood to build new homes. All of the planned homes have Habitat home buyers in the program.


Manatee County Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, ecumenical, volunteer-based organization with the mission to develop resources, educate and mobilize people to work alongside families in need, rehabilitating existing homes and building sustainable, affordable homes, thereby improving the quality of life in Manatee County. For more information about Manatee Habitat visit