How gated communities are coming together to build affordable dreams.
Warm winters, azure gulf water lapping white sand beaches, and palm tree-lined streets. These are just some of the unique attributes drawing people from all over the world to Southwest Florida. Despite a multitude of different backgrounds, you’ll find thousands of people within a ten-mile radius in Bonita Springs uniting for a common cause: affordable housing.
For years, retirees, snowbirds, and permanent residents of three Bonita Springs gated communities have pushed up their sleeves to build homes and fundraise for Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties. Collectively, homeowners in Bonita Bay, Pelican Landing and The Colony, along with Shadow Wood Country Club, have built more than 100 Habitat homes.
“I love it. It’s become a real passion for me,” said Pat Douglas, volunteer leader at Shadow Wood. A retired executive from Wisconsin, Pat traded his corporate job for a hammer and nails and is now dedicating two days a week building homes for Habitat. He also guides others, even those with no experience, to do the same.
“It’s great to have skills, but we can make anybody productive. Maybe not every day of every week, but we can make everybody productive,” said Pat. “We’re going to get dirty, we’re going to get a little sore, you might get a blister, but you know it’s a great mission and we’re going to have fun doing it.”
Along with building houses, the residents at Shadow Wood formed a charitable foundation to donate to local nonprofits, including Habitat. So far this year, the Shadow Wood Charitable Foundation granted $300,000 toward Habitat’s affordable housing program.
Three miles south of Shadow Wood, just west of U.S. 41, sits Pelican Landing and The Colony. They too have plenty of residents who give back by donating time or money to Habitat. Retired biomedical researcher Reid Patterson went from helping humankind on the micro level, to helping on a macro scale.
“I kind of wanted to do a little more hands-on physical work as opposed to just sitting around in meetings,” explained Reid. “So, I came here with the idea of getting involved, and I got involved with building homes.”
Reid also stays busy by helping run the fundraising campaign for Pelican Landing and The Colony. This year, the residents set a record-breaking fundraising goal of $300,000 which they’ve already surpassed by more than $50,000.
Travel another two-and-a-half miles south along U.S. 41 and you’ll see the Bonita Bay sign. Each of its 63 communities participate in fundraising for Habitat.
“Our mission is to make sure that people know that Habitat is here… and they can help,” explained Bonita Bay resident and Committee Chair Dorota Harris.
As a Realtor with a background in social work, Dorota understands all too well how the current housing market is affecting people.
“I felt this need and feeling of responsibility for the well-being of everybody. Not only people who have money, but people who are trying to get their life together and work very hard,” she said. This year, Bonita Bay residents have raised $500,000—and counting!
Leave Bonita Bay and head nearly four miles east and you’ll find the Bonita Springs neighborhood “Partnership Place” under construction. The name is an homage to the partnership found between the residents of Bonita Bay, Pelican Landing and The Colony, and Shadow Wood. It’s because of the generosity of these gated communities that another thriving neighborhood can be built. Once completed, Partnership Place will be home to 14 families. Built by Bonita residents, for Bonita residents.
“It’s very tangible to people. It’s not somewhere unknown to people. [Partnership Place] is for people who live here and work here. They can see the homes,” said Dorota.
“It’s not a handout, but it’s a step up,” reiterated Reid, “We are emphatic that we can make a big difference in these people’s lives.”
Ten miles of road connect Shadow Wood, Pelican Landing and The Colony, Bonita Bay, and Partnership Place. But within those ten miles are thousands of people with thousands of stories, uniting for one goal: to build affordable dreams.