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Habitat Homeownership Advisor and HUD-certified Housing Counselor Melody Lineberry guides families to achieve their housing and financial goals.

Extending the “hand up” mentality to those who further the Habitat mission.

It’s hard to keep Habitat HUD-certified housing counselor Melody, down. An abundance of positive energy, she exudes an endlessly optimistic spirit. But her journey into Habitat’s Family Services Team wasn’t a straight path. It was filled with twists, turns, and a deep-seeded drive to learn.

Like many of the families Melody sees and counsels every day, she grew up in a family that experienced housing insecurity. Despite the challenge of finding a place to live, Melody says her parents instilled an important life lesson: kindness. It was her kindness that would eventually lead Melody down a path that would help her grow professionally within the organization.

At 14, Melody moved from Arkansas to Southwest Florida. She dropped out of high school, instead opting to get her GED and enter the workforce full-time. After years of various jobs, including working in consignment, she landed at the Habitat ReStore in North Fort Myers.

“I really like being able to understand the customers more than just a face behind the register,” she explained.

Through her kindness, attention to detail, and willingness to go the extra mile to make someone’s day, she built lasting and meaningful relationships with customers, volunteers, and her manager. The people she met then paid her back. Through words of encouragement, they pushed her to see a bigger future.

“I realized I’m still a kid,” recalled the now 22-year-old. “Just because I dropped out of high school doesn’t mean I can’t go back to school… I’m going to be 30 at some point, so why can’t I be 30 with a degree?”

She quickly settled on a Human Services degree and enrolled in school, but it would be a while before she could express her excitement.

“I didn’t think being a full-time student and working at the ReStore Monday through Saturday during the day– I didn’t think that there was any way I could make both happen,” she explained. “So, I thought I was going to have to forgo the joy I had at work while going to school.”

She had lined up an overnight job and was ready to hand in her resignation when her manager stepped in with news that would change her future.

“He [said], ‘I know what you’re trying to do.’ And I thought, ‘Well I’m not going to expect you to work with me,’” recalled Melody. “And he said, ‘well, why wouldn’t I?’ and then fireworks went off!”

Not only could Melody keep her beloved job that brought her joy, but Habitat was going one step further: We would give her a hand up on her journey of self-improvement.

In 2020, through a generous gift by Habitat Board Member Vicki Cooper and her husband Alan Einhorn, the “Staff Development and Education Fund” was created. Its mission is to enrich the culture of Habitat’s workplace, improve services and invest in the people making Habitat’s mission happen, every day. The fund can be used to support organizational pursuits, and team and individual educational pursuits.

For Melody, the fund provided the financial bridge she needed to make her dreams happen.

“I was just going to dip into my savings over the first semester and see what happened,” she said. “But after knowing that the first semester was taken care of, I was able to save and plan for the next semester and the next. I haven’t had to take a break [from school].”

Melody started school, continued working at the ReStore, and started studying to become a HUD-certified housing counselor. She made the move to Family Services full-time in January of 2022 and hopes to graduate with her Bachelor of Arts degree by winter of 2022. Meanwhile, she continues to spread Habitat’s mission through her kindness, optimism, and empowerment, to every family that walks through her door.

“The most important thing to remember, no matter what they look like, no matter where they come from, no matter what you think they can do, any goal is attainable,” she reiterated. “It doesn’t take much to be the nice guy or the nice memory, you know?”