Correction to the video story above: Gloria Lewis is an executive assistant at Westwood Middle School, not a teacher.
The sound of clapping filled Gloria Lewis’ new front yard in the Duval Heights neighborhood.
What started as a piece of land is now a beautiful green home with white columns.
Family, friends, sponsors and board of directors all came together April 1 to celebrate Alachua Habitat for Humanity’s 173rd home, which is owned by Lewis.
Lewis’ family traveled from Orlando and Miami to support her.
“I am so blessed and thankful for my family, and I am so thankful that they traveled so far,” she said. “They made sure that they were able to see, hear and witness this journey.”
She is the Executive Assistant at Westwood Middle School, and some of her colleagues were there to celebrate.
The charity organization’s homeownership program provides families the opportunity to become homeowners who may not qualify otherwise.
Lewis moved from Tallahassee to Gainesville five years ago with her daughter, Kayleigha, and her son, Quinton when Kayleigha was diagnosed with lupus.
“It kind of made more sense for us to stay in Gainesville only because all of her lupus doctors were here,” Lewis said.
She said they could not afford to live in Gainesville, so they stayed with her aunt, Julie Hill, for about a half a year before moving into the Eden Park at Ironwood apartment complex.
While living there, Lewis found an Alachua Habitat for Humanity link on Facebook. She applied and was accepted.
She said the process between applying and moving into the home lasted about a year.
According to the chief of outreach and development, Stevie Doyle, Alachua Habitat for Humanity offers a hand-up, not a handout.
Future homeowners must pay monthly mortgage payments set at less than 30% of their income and commit 200 hours of sweat equity. Their sweat equity requirement consists of working on their own home, working on the homes of others and attending homeownership classes.
Doyle said the classes make for great homeowners.
“She takes homeownership classes such as how to take out a mortgage,” she said. “Even how to be a great neighbor.”
Since 1986, the nonprofit organization has built 173 homes, but Board of Director Ben Phillips said it isn’t enough.
“We can build 400 homes today, and it won’t solve the issue of affordable housing in Alachua County,” he said.
He said they’re building 12 homes a year.
“Hopefully next year, we’ll be building 14, and the year after that 15,” he said. “We want to get up to at least 20 a year, and we will see where is goes beyond that.”
According to the nonprofit, everyone deserves a decent and affordable place to call home. They invite people of all ages, races, genders, religions and political views.
Lewis’ home was sponsored by Capital City Bank, City of Gainesville, Domino’s, Subway, the Jack and Irma Hoornstra Foundation and more.
Lewis said the first thing she is going to do is make a delicious meal.
“We are actually going to cook,” she said.