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Habitat Board Members and the 12 homeowners who attended our Mortgage Burning event.

Celebrating homeowners who reached the ultimate goal!

As homeowners, it’s a goal we all dream about: paying off the mortgage. But for 31 Habitat homeowners last year, that goal went from dream to reality. On December 16, 2021, for the first time since the pandemic, 12 of those 31 homeowners gathered for our Mortgage Burning event in Heritage Heights to celebrate their achievement of truly accomplishing the American Dream.

“Thank you Habitat, and all the sponsors, and everyone that helped out. I am so grateful and so blessed to have my own house and to say it’s mine.” Habitat Homeowner Toria shared while burning her mortgage.

The Mortgage Burning event is a long-held tradition in our organization, created to honor families who met their personal goal of paying off their loans in full. Mortgage fulfillment is a testament to the Habitat homeownership model. Not only does it emphasize the long-term commitment between Habitat and its partner families, but it also speaks to the valuable knowledge new homeowners gain through housing and financial counseling. For Habitat homeowner Toria, paying off her mortgage after a serious work injury meant she wouldn’t have to worry as much.

“Paying off the house was a big relief, a big heavy burden that was on me,” explained Toria. “If anything worse were to happen to me, who would get my house? What happens to my house?”

Toria is relieved to know that now, no matter what happens, because her house is paid in full, her three grown kids won’t have that burden of answering those questions. Yet another blessing Habitat helped her to realize.

“Now I pay just my land taxes, my house insurance, and that is it!”

During the Mortgage Burning event, Toria and the 11 other homeowners in attendance, each had a chance to stand up and speak about the impact the Habitat family of donors, volunteers, staff, and sponsors made in their lives over the years. For some, like Toria, who paid off her mortgage just as the pandemic hit, this moment was two years in the making.

“I was happy for the mortgage burning,” she said. “It could finally sink in to everyone else that was around me– instead of me saying, ‘Oh, I paid off my house.’ that they really can see me doing it through my mortgage burning– that I really did pay it off!”

All three of Toria’s children are now out of the house and living on their own. She says all three now see a future that consists of a stable home because of everything she learned through Habitat then passed along, including making smart financial decisions and home maintenance. Toria’s hope for their future?

“I hope they [all] get their own house.”

Since 1982, Habitat has partnered with more than 1,700 families in Lee and Hendry Counties, helping them achieve the dream of purchasing their own homes. Of these, 241 families have completely satisfied their mortgages!