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Manatee County Habitat for Humanity and Manatee Reads! Join Forces to Support Literacy Programs at 13th Avenue Dream Center

be the one cookiesManatee Habitat & Manatee Reads members & employees with "Be the One" Cookies

Bradenton, FL Sept. 9, 2016 - A unique non-profit partnership has recently developed and its first outreach is to help a third. Manatee County Habitat for Humanity and Manatee Reads! entered into a partnership to join forces to help promote their individual missions which seem to intertwine. This joint venture was formed as part of the upcoming Giving Challenge fundraiser taking place September 20-21.

“Building a Foundation Together” has become the theme of this union. Although they approach it from different angles, both organizations strive to provide independence and dignity to individuals in our community. Habitat for Humanity builds the foundation of a home. Manatee Reads! builds the foundation of the family by improving literacy skills. With their combined volunteer bases, they hope to initiate positive change in Manatee County.

“We are glad to partner with Manatee Reads! for the Giving Challenge and beyond to help each other achieve our goals,” says Diana Shoemaker, Executive Director of Manatee Habitat for Humanity.

Their first venture together involves Bradenton’s 13th Avenue Dream Center. Habitat for Humanity recently was awarded a literacy grant from the Rubbermaid Foundation to build mobile library carts and partner with a community organization to help support their literacy programs. The 13th Ave. Dream Center of United Community Centers was chosen for the literacy partner. Manatee Reads! has signed on to stock these library carts with reading material. “Although we focus on adult literacy, we are glad to provide any help in advancing literacy at any age level in Manatee County”, states Roger Boos, Manatee Reads! Board president.

The dedication of these new mobile library carts took place on Thursday September 8th at the Dream Center. The children and youths of the Dream Center used their artistic talent to paint and decorate these carts. They were then stocked with books provided by Manatee Reads! According to Alexdrena Green, COO of the Dream Center, “We are excited to collaborate with Manatee Reads! and Habitat for Humanity to make available literary resources to the youth and adults in the neighborhoods surrounding the 13th Avenue Dream Center. Through this partnership it is our hope to minimize the obstacles and barriers that prevent the development of life long readers and productive corporate citizens.”

Partnerships... different causes coming together for the good of the community.




We are Building!

construction2018 1Construction is Underway in Bradenton. Volunteers are needed for all phases of construction.  Everyone is welcome!

Working on the preparations for the foundation on the Interfaith BuildFour homes have been completed and three houses are currently under construction in the City of Bradenton. Volunteering at Manatee Habitat is a great way to learn new skills, meet new people and make a difference in your community.  No previous experience or tools are required.

In addition to new home construction, Manatee Habitat volunteers participate in Neighborhood Revitalization by making needed critical repairs and renovations to allow people to safely stay in their homes. Wheelchair ramps and accessibility changes that allow seniors or the disabled to age in place are included. Community Projects for events such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service each year in January are also part of what Manatee Habitat volunteers do to promote Neighborhood Revitalization and improve the quality of life in Manatee County.  

For information on becoming a Volunteer, click here.

Photo, right: Working on the preparations for the foundation on the Interfaith Build. Below: Exterior painting instruction. Bottom: MLK Day of Service Cleanup

Exterior painting instruction

MLK Day of Service Neighborhood Cleanup


Affordable housing at forefront in Manatee County

IMG 1409Manatee - The type of affordable housing being built in Manatee County right now is the wrong kind of housing, according to Andy Reasoner, with Royal Palm Terrace Apartments.

“We have to build a different kind of housing to deal with low and very low (income) and especially homeless,” said Reasoner, who is on the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. “What we are building now economically will not work.”

On Monday afternoon, the advisory board tasked with reviewing Manatee County codes for any barriers to developing affordable housing in Manatee County got to work. The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, which is mandated by Florida Statute, met for the first time since Nov. 17, 2014.

Diana Shoemaker, executive director of Manatee County Habitat for Humanity, was appointed chairwoman of the advisory committee.

“You act as a liaison to make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners of any changes that are needed within Land Development Code and Comprehensive Plan,” Denise Thomas, the county’s housing and community development coordinator, told the committee Monday. “Everybody has a different perspective of affordable housing and the needs. Each of you sees it from a different perspective.”

While the advisory board only has to meet at the minimum every three years, affordable housing is a large concern within Manatee County, according to Thomas.

“We are hearing from all audiences that there is a challenge of getting affordable housing,” she said. “The plight is there and each of you have a different interest and that is why we are here to address those concerns.”

The advisory committee will have to “think outside the box and come up with creative solutions,” said committee member Shaun Koby.

“We are going to have to create structures that are different and that make sense,” he said.

There are families living in cars on the street, according to Donald Hill with Turning Points.

“What we really need is some plan for these people to be able to afford to live,” he said. “They have no place to live. They are living in the streets.”

Commissioner Charles Smith, who attended Monday’s meeting, said Manatee County is lacking affordable housing.

“We are years behind,” he said. “It is not just homeless. It is not just the one who got in trouble with the law. It is the ones right here that can’t afford a home. ...We are looking at you for making recommendations to us. We need strong recommendations from the advisory board. We really need that.”

The commission will continue the housing discussion Tuesday when they will hear recommendations from county staff about ways to address the housing situation in the county. The work session begins at 9 a.m. in the Manatee Room of the county administration building.

Read more here

Bank of America Charitable Foundation Provides MCHFH with Grant

“Our partnership with Bank of America Charitable Foundation helps address a pervasive challenge in our community – the lack of decent affordable housing. This grant we’ve received will help us take a comprehensive approach to providing affordable housing by allowing us to build and rehabilitate houses while educating potential home buyers and mobilizing volunteers. Access to affordable, stable housing is the foundation to a family’s financial well-being,” Diana said.

Diana Shoemaker, Habitat Executive Director with Michele Charlet, Bank of America Asset Manager and Board Member for Manatee Habitat for Humanity.

boa charitable found


Habitat for Humanity works to create more affordable housing in Manatee

tt habitat 1Manatee - Shambria Smith wanted to have a place for her children to call home. As a single mother, the 26-year-old said it was a struggle to find a place she could afford in Manatee County.

“The ones that were affordable had a waiting list,” said Smith, who works at United Cerebral Palsy.

This past June, Smith became Manatee County Habitat for Humanity’s 125th homeowner when she moved into her Palmetto home with her daughters, 5-year-old Reniya and 3-year-old Paris.

“I am home and this is my house for me and my children,” said Smith, who helped build her home.

Now, Smith said she wants to volunteer with Habitat to help provide other families with stable housing.

“The way I felt, I would love to give to someone else,” she said.

Habitat knows they have the families who need permanent affordable housing, but the demand continues to outpace the supply, said Diana Shoemaker, the nonprofit’s executive director.

“We know we have the families,” she said. “That’s not the problem. It’s all these resources to have the corporate contributions and the donor contributions to fund the house construction of it.”

Programs such as the Community Contribution Tax Credit Program, which allows businesses to reinvest their tax dollars into their community for affordable housing, help Habitat fund construction costs. Access to land on a more regular basis would also help, Shoemaker said.

The tax credit program was an incentive for Bealls, which participated in the program for Smith’s house as part of its Centennial Celebration.

“We were able to provide hundreds of hours and got a sizable tax credit for doing it,” said Bill Webster, Bealls’ director of public and government affairs. “It was beneficial for us, but mostly it was beneficial for the community. You can either pay it to Tallahassee or you can pay it to Habitat. We decided we much rather support our hometown by doing it that way than throwing in with other tax payments. It is a great program.”

While Habitat has enough property now to build for all the families in the queue right now, there are more than 150 families waiting to even have a conversation about a Habitat home, Shoemaker said.

“They haven’t applied yet,” she said. “These are people that want to talk to us about affordable housing. We just can’t keep the people on the waiting list for that long. These are people waiting to have this conversation about stable, decent, affordable housing.”

Habitat is now looking at its model from a neighborhood revitalization perspective, focusing on infill development and looking at trying to create a greater density, Shoemaker said.

“We are trying to shift our model to make sure that we address more families and I think we are just looking for the partnerships to help us do that,” she said.

Focus shifts to city of Bradenton

For the next 18 months to two years, Manatee County Habitat for Humanity will be working in the city of Bradenton around McKechnie Field. The nonprofit plans to add eight homes to the area, which was made possible with a Community Development Block Grant through the city coupled with the nonprofit’s own funds.

“It is going to be infill,” Shoemaker said. “It happens to be in the same area, which really helps the city because it addresses the city’s needs to build in this area for affordable housing. It also helps us because we are sort of congregated in the same area with our building.”

Work is already underway on one of the homes on 17th Avenue West and the foundation should be laid this month, according to Shoemaker.

“For us, the conversation is with the city about how can we address the affordable housing requirements that they have while also meeting the form-based code requirements,” she said. “That’s the conversation we are having now with them to make sure we build up to code but also to build as many homes as we can in the area to address as many families as we can.”

Habitat is hoping that the investment they are making in the section of Bradenton in the next couple years could spur others to want to also revitalize the neighborhood, said Amy Van Dell, Habitat’s resource development manager.

“So if other people say, ‘Well jeez this neighborhood is coming up. I’m going to fix my house up,’” she said. “Hopefully it will raise all boats by Habitat making its investment there.”

Pointing to the groundbreaking for the homes, it is already happening, Shoemaker said.

“We are already starting to see the community come together and have interest and investment in the fact that Habitat is going to be there,” she said.

County to continue affordable housing discussion

A state-mandated advisory board tasked with reviewing Manatee County codes for any barriers to developing affordable housing in Manatee County will get to work at 3 p.m. Monday.

“It is basically to go over what their responsibility is, which is to review the Land Development Code and Comprehensive Plan regarding housing elements to determine if there are any barriers to affordable housing or any other types of incentives we need to look at to further or enhance affordable housing,” said Denise Thomas, the county’s housing and community development coordinator. “It is kind of a coordinated effort basically providing recommendations to Board of County Commissioners of things we can consider. We have a very diverse board.”

On Tuesday, the county commission will wrap its “All Things Housing” work session series when they will hear staff recommendations based on what has been said at previous work sessions, according to Thomas.

In addition to recommendations, the board will also hear about some barriers that currently exist, Thomas said.

“Some of the things that might currently hinder us being able to move forward and what needs to change or has to change,” she said.

Read article on Bradenton Herald