Habitat for Humanity homeowner Stefanie (left) celebrating her friend Shacoya’s (right) home dedication.

From Proud Habitat homeowner to Fort Myers business owner

Habitat for Humanity homeowners gain stability and peace of mind from finally having a decent place they can afford. They develop a sense of self-reliance and confidence that permeates throughout the rest of their lives, and many finally have the chance to start a new business or go for that dream job that previously seemed out of reach.

Homeowners Stefanie and Shacoya learned firsthand how Habitat affected more than their physical address. In 2014 Stephanie purchased her Habitat home in Harlem Heights. At the time she was working for Little Sprouts Child Care Center in Fort Myers, pursuing her professional daycare credentials and learning how the center was managed in hopes of one day owning her own.

“I stayed there and learned everything,” said Stefanie. “When it came time for me to leave and open my own, the owner asked why don’t you buy this daycare? I knew all of the staff, kids and parents.”

Four years after purchasing her Habitat home, Stefanie was stable and confident enough to fulfill her dream of becoming a business owner. She purchased the daycare, renamed it the Step-by-Step Child Care Center and today employs a full team of teachers and staff. Owning an affordable home has empowered Stefanie to give back to her community by creating local jobs and providing a safe learning environment for your children to thrive in.

Recent Habitat homeowner Shacoya is close personal friends with Stefanie and works for her at Step-by-Step. The two met and clicked instantly. Shacoya had applied for a Habitat home but needed to pay off debt to qualify. Besides examining work history and family size, Habitat will also look at an applicant’s debt load to determine if they can afford a mortgage.

Stefanie kept encouraging Shacoya to reapply when she was ready.

“I told her that I had a Habitat home. I love the program, it has set the foundation for everything I do now” said Stefanie, who even offered to help with some of Shacoya’s 300 sweat equity volunteer hours. “I told her to just go to the next meeting and apply again.”

Shacoya’s second application was finally approved and she was excited about the prospect of purchasing an affordable home.  She was also required to attend homeowner informational workshops and complete her volunteer hours. Finding the time to complete the Habitat requirements was challenging, but she got a lot of help from family and friends.

“I had struggles with babysitters to watch my girls, but it didn’t stop me. I kept going,” said Shacoya. “I spent my weekends doing the classes and after work I went straight in. I had a few family members help, my best friend and my boyfriend.”

Staying true to her word, Stefanie also volunteered on Shacoya’s home. The two friends worked on the property that Shacoya would eventually move into months later, which not all Habitat homeowners get a chance to do.

“The first time I went out there I was eight months pregnant,” said Stefanie. “Doing hours is fun because you are out there with people you know, and I worked on her actual house twice. My house was already done, so I didn’t get to work on my house.”

Click here to learn more about the process of becoming a Habitat for Humanity homeowner.