Yvonne remembers the range of emotions leading up to the closing of her Habitat home like it was yesterday.
“I was a single mom with three kids and I had two jobs. It was a struggle,” she said. “But I did it, and it meant the world to me to have my own house.”
She purchased her home in February 1997 in Habitat’s Harlem Heights neighborhood and was happy to have a stable home for her family. Twenty-six years later, she’s celebrating a different milestone.
“No words can really describe the emotional part of getting a house, paying for the house and then achieving your dream. I did it and I’m just overwhelmed.”
Yvonne was one of 11 families who celebrated paying off their mortgages at a mortgage burning event joined by Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties’ staff, board of directors, homeowners, donors and community members. Families threw a copy of their mortgage documents into a fire to symbolize the American Dream of living mortgage-free.
Over the last two years, 52 homeowners met their personal goal of paying off their Habitat loans in full. This achievement means they can experience more financial freedom by owning their homes outright. The homeowners paid off their mortgages over an average of 15 and a half years.
“It takes perseverance, it takes resilience, it takes strength and just the determination to continue to forge forward and pay those mortgage payments every single month,” said Habitat Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Elisha Baird. “As a mortgage lender, a retail operation, a construction company and a land developer, it takes all of us to make this happen.”
Since 1982, Habitat has partnered with more than 1,800 families in Lee and Hendry Counties, helping them to achieve the dream of purchasing their own homes. Three hundred and ten homeowners have satisfied their mortgages.
“I was scared at the beginning, but it was well worth it. Where I got my home, I was there as a child playing in that area, and it just meant the world to me,” homeowner Yolanda remembered. She and her husband purchased their Habitat home in Clewiston in 2004. They’ve been mortgage-free since 2022. “The home meant having a secure roof for my children, where they can grow and make memories.”
Being mortgage-free is what many people who finance their homes aspire to be. This achievement emphasizes the long-term commitment between Habitat and its partner families.
“Many hands make light work,” said Baird. “Each one of us coming together to build the homes, our partners, our donors, our volunteers; this is what makes it all possible.”
“I just want to thank Habitat,” Yvonne said. “God’s there. I talked to Him, and He helped me all the way.”