Better tomorrow, built today
Our housing circumstances set the tone for almost every other facet of life.
Letter from the CEO
Thanks to you, we’re still building.
The past fiscal year has certainly been one for the books. Starting a new cycle of building homes, raising funds, s›was erving families, connecting with all of those who make our work possible in the middle of a pandemic and figuring out what the road ahead would look like was no small task.
Thanks to your support, a bit of technology, a whole lot of creativity, and more than a little perseverance, we made it through and celebrated one of our most successful years ever. While our office doors were locked, in-person gatherings were cancelled, and job sites were closed to volunteers or at reduced capacity for much of the year, we knew that keeping in touch was key.
We thought that if we couldn’t bring you to Habitat, we’d bring Habitat to you. With safety precautions in mind, our team took to the community and started documenting, well, everything so we could share the laughter, sweat, tears, and everything in between. Virtual Home Dedications brought our partner families and their full gratitude into your homes. Neighborhood and home tours showed off our progress in the community, and countless zoom meetings kept our homeowners on-track. Various committees completed the important work that keeps our affiliate running.
What started as a next-best solution to the problem of being apart turned out to have a huge silver lining. We were able to reach people who wouldn’t normally be able to visit a job site or come to a dedication ceremony in person. We captured on camera those touching moments that are often lost when a larger audience is present. We got to share with you so many of the incredible things that we are so privileged as staff to witness firsthand as we build relationships with the families we serve.
And your response reminded us that you know the importance of this work, too. Fiscal year 2021 was a record-breaking year in a time when it was desperately needed. The housing struggle is reaching new heights, making our work vital to people struggling to find an affordable place to live. In a time when both purchase and rental prices are skyrocketing and more and more people are struggling with housing stability, it is your generosity that keeps the dream of homeownership alive for so many.
In the pages of this year’s annual report, you’ll learn more about how we have persevered over the past year as well as the many challenges that we continue to face. Most importantly, we will introduce you to a few of the donors, volunteers and partner families who like you inspire us to continue to persevere. Thank you for being part of building a better and strong tomorrow for all the families with whom we partner.
Yours in partnership,
Rev. Lisa Lefkow
Chief Executive Officer
Fiscal Year in Review
Give to the Max 10
Together, we raised $3 million in our 2021 Give to the Max matching challenge: $1 million more than we set out to raise and the highest dollar total we’ve seen in the ten-year history of this fundraising challenge. We received gifts from local individuals, seasonal residents, communities of faith, local businesses, and even from current Habitat homeowners who wanted to be part of paying their “hand-up” forward. We’re humbled by this incredible response to what has become our single largest fundraising effort.
More than 500 mortgages have been paid off to date.
Infrastructure work at Kaicasa and construction on Whitaker Woods began. When complete, these two communities combined will provide more than 400 affordable homes to hardworking families in our community.
Last December, our friends at The Lawless Family Foundation provided a generous matching fund of $1 million to double the impact of our year-end giving.
homes closed at Vincent’s Acres in Naples by the end of the fiscal year.
New ReStore Opens
After five years at our Yahl Street location, our North Naples ReStore relocated to a larger and more visible spot in the Carillon Place plaza near the intersection of Pine Ridge Road and Airport Road. Since moving the operation to its new home in February, the store has seen an incredible increase in foot traffic and sales.
$1,774,316 paid by homeowners
in property tax
families purchased safe, decent, affordable homes through their partnership with Habitat Collier, thanks to the generosity of people like you who made it possible.
More than $17 million added to the local tax base in FY21 through new home sales.
With in-person gatherings out, we had to come up with a way to keep in contact with the donors, volunteers, and supporters who are the heartbeat of this organization. For more than a year, we have focused on bringing family stories, gratitude, and progress updates right to you through an increased focus on video communications.
homes closed in the Immokalee community of Esperanza by the end of the fiscal year.
In last year’s annual report, we shared that the rising costs of land and infrastructure had increased exponentially over the last decade, prompting us to rework our giving levels to more accurately reflect the true cost of building homes today. At that time, the cost of materials had remained largely constant, with those costs remaining consistent with inflation over the years. Today, just a year later, that is no longer the case. We find ourselves contending with not only increases in the cost of land and infrastructure, but now the cost of materials has spiked to unprecedented levels—and that’s when the materials are available.
For the first time, we’ve begun to experience delays and challenges in our construction schedules due to the unavailability of materials like concrete block for firewalls, doors, windows, and even lumber. Not only are we paying a higher price for these items, but we’re also waiting longer to receive them, meaning construction progress is slower than in the past.
To combat these supply issues and continue forging ahead, we’ve shopped around, worked with new vendors to source alternatives to the materials we have used in the past, and have already begun ordering items for future projects far ahead of schedule. As the largest producing Habitat for Humanity affiliate in the country, we are fortunate to be able to build on a scale that allows us to plan ahead and place large orders for the items we know we will need in the future. That’s just one of the ways that we’re working to build more thoughtfully and efficiently, even as we manage challenges that are being felt by builders across the country.
With more people than ever before struggling with housing affordability—from low-wage earners to those earning closer to the area median income— and land at a premium, one solution to serve the need is to focus on multi-family options. As Habitat Collier moves into the next chapter of serving the need for affordable housing options, here are a few of the offerings we’re making available in Collier County:
Kaicasa in Immokalee is our largest construction effort yet with nearly 300 townhomes.
Whitaker Woods, a 125-home community includes a three-acre lake with a walking path and a park complete with a playground, pavilion, and soccer field.
Songbird Condominiums features 52 residences conveniently located just off Pine Ridge Road with easy access to many local workplaces, amenities, and the interstate for easy communting.
Single Family Homes
While we now offer many multi-family options, we occasionally build homes on individual lots throughout Naples and Immokalee.
Nearly half of American workers can’t afford a one-bedroom rental. In Collier County, median home prices have surged 42% in the last year—the third highest increase in the nation, according to the National Association of Realtors.
It’s no secret that the real estate market has been booming for the better part of the last year, especially here in Southwest Florida. Property values have jumped significantly, and homes are selling within just days of hitting the market. In the rental world, the story is much the same. The cost of renting is higher than ever, and inventory is virtually nonexistent.
So, where does this leave the low-wage earners in our community?
Affordability has been a challenge in our area for decades. Now, with rental and purchase prices reaching record levels, the difficult search for an affordable place to live is impacting more people than ever. Home prices continue to surge with no real increase in wages.
Once again, those already struggling to make ends meet are the ones who are hit hardest. Our mission has always been to work with families in need of safe and decent homes. Today, the scope of that mission is greater than it has ever been. Rising rents and home prices in Collier County are pushing more people into the category of cost-burdened than ever before. Today, it’s not just the lowest wage earners in our community who are struggling.
The fact of the matter is that housing affordability is an issue that affects all of us. When the workers who make up the backbone of our community can’t afford to live here, businesses suffer, prices for everyday items and services go up, and we lose out on opportunities to grow our economy. Housing is fundamental and having a good place to call home should not be a luxury.
We continue to work towards our vision of a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live, and we are so incredibly grateful for your partnership in that undertaking. Now is the time when we should all be working together, each of us doing what we can to raise our communities up as a whole—whether that means volunteering your time, making a gift to Habitat, or offering your voice in the community as an advocate for safe, decent, and affordable housing.
Looking for ways to get involved? Our new Mission Team combines the efforts of our former advocacy and faith relations committees to increase awareness and to be a voice to promote affordable housing efforts here in Collier County.
Flo and her two daughters were living in a single bedroom that she was renting in a house they shared with two other families. With little space, Mom and both daughters all shared one bed and had to keep belongings to a minimum. In the kitchen, they were allowed space for their food on two shelves in the refrigerator and one shelf in the pantry.
“It was difficult, but we made the best of it.” Florine says. “My children weren’t even really comfortable being out in the living room. It was tough, but hard times make us stronger.”
Florine had been working as a salesperson in a flooring store for two years, and though she was good at her job, her income wasn’t enough to cover the cost of a more appropriate place for her family to live. She wanted desperately to give her daughters a better life. She wanted them to have the solid foundation of a home of their own and a safe neighborhood filled with other children and families like theirs. She didn’t know where to turn until she learned about Habitat Collier.
Through her partnership with Habitat Collier, Florine finally discovered the pathway to homeownership that she wanted for so long.
“This moment… I dreamt of it, I wanted it so bad. This means the world to us. We needed more room, more space… and our future will be brighter because of it,” she says. “This is the foundation of our future… it’s incredible!”
Today, Flo and her two adorable daughters live in their very own home, thanks to the generosity of the Schoen Foundation, whose incredible gift underwrote the construction of their home. No longer must mother and daughters share a bed, or even a bedroom, and their living room and kitchen are their own—no more working around the schedules of roommates or sharing space in the fridge and pantry. These are the fundamental ways in which the lives of parents and children are changed through Habitat.
The Schoen Foundation has been committed to making affordable homeownership possible through their support of Habitat Collier for more than fifteen years. Flo’s family is the latest of twenty-two Habitat partner families whose lives have been forever changed by their generosity.
At her closing, Flo shared a special message to let the Schoen Foundation— and all Habitat Collier donors—know that their kindness does not go unnoticed.
“My family and I want to share our deepest gratitude because your donations make this happen. Without the kindness of your heart, this is unachievable.”
This loving family is a shining example of the difference made by each donation we receive. Because of the Schoen Foundation’s thoughtful donation, not only does this determined mother have a safe and decent place to call home, but they have the solid foundation that comes along with it. Flo is already pursuing new goals and has started a new career with the Community Foundation of Collier County. She’s thrilled to be able to pay her blessings forward working for an organization that makes such a significant impact in the community.
Meet Vicente & Amada
For 18 years, the Hernandez family had been living in an aging trailer in Immokalee. They made do in the small space, but in recent years the trailer was really beginning to show its age and lack of upkeep by the landlord. Windows were broken, there was extensive mold and mildew creeping in through the ceiling and walls, and there were even holes in the floor.
“The moldy ceiling in the shower was sagging so low, it looked like it would collapse at any moment,” says Habitat Collier Family Services Advisor, Francisco.
With another hurricane season looming, Vicente and Amada were worried about whether their trailer would last through another severe storm. They wanted their family to be safe and healthy, and they wanted to give their daughter Nadia a better home environment. Nadia is an impressive young woman, mature beyond her fifteen years and a great student at her high school, involved in student government, JROTC, and tennis. She is her parents’ pride and joy, and they wanted to give her a stable foundation so that she can fulfill her highest potential.
Both Vicente and Amada are hard workers, employed with Gargiulo Farms for sixteen and thirteen years, respectively. Unfortunately, even with two incomes, the cost of living in Collier County is unmanageable for so many families.
That’s when they turned to Habitat.
When they applied to become homeowners, it was immediately evident that this family would be ideal partners. Their need for a safe and healthy home was clear and so was their determination to be part of their own housing solution. After being approved to partner with Habitat, the couple worked diligently to complete their sweat equity commitment as soon as possible, spending every spare moment they could working on the job site and completing required classwork.
Now, they are incredibly proud to finally have a home of their own, a dream more than two decades in the making.
“Thank you so much for the donations that were gifted to build this home. It means a lot not only for my parents, but especially for me,” says Nadia. “A simple, safe and healthy place we can call home.”
In their own words
Alexis & Mayrobis Sanchez
Golden Gate Estates
“You can see the difference. The difference in our attitudes, in our son’s attitude, in our happiness, in everything! It’s a big, big difference. I’m a big believer that there’s a huge difference in a child that grows up with an iPad in the hand versus one who grows up like this: playing with the dog, playing outside, running around, being a real kid. The way I grew up, the way (his father) grew up. That, I think, is so beneficial. Thank you to Habitat—to the Habitat donors for giving us this opportunity. This gave us the chance to feel good with something that belongs to us, at a price we can afford.”
Eugene & Mary Waight
“Some people say you are lucky. It’s not lucky, I think we say we’ve been blessed. For me, it’s night and day—living in an apartment versus living in a house setting. But besides the physical setting, it’s also the mental impact it has had on us… where you have your own roof, the comfort of being in your own house. This is like winning the lotto, like winning the lotto with Habitat as our partner. We are grateful for all those people that have assisted and all they have done for us. We will be eternally grateful.”
Dickson & Alta Augustin
“We used to live in an apartment. With the Habitat house, now we don’t have to worry about the price increasing or renewing the lease. So, we’re blessed and happy, and we want to thank all of the people in the Habitat organization for building up the mission to help people. The first thing we enjoy is the Habitat idea—to build up the family and to help the family to be safe. I appreciate that, because I really care about how we live, because it was really stressful when we lived in the apartment. Every month, we got different neighbors that we didn’t know, and we would hear bad news, too. So, we feel like we are on the same page as Habitat. It’s a great opportunity to be part of the Habitat family.”
In 2016, we met Angelica Scalora and her mom, Joanna. They were living in a rental home in Naples—a small guest house behind a larger home in the City of Naples. Joanna was paying 50% of her monthly income and the home was little more than a glorified shed. The walls were beginning to crumble from termites, making for easy entrance for rodents and other pests. The property was situated on a lake, but with no retaining wall, the back yard was beginning to fall into the lake threatening the structural integrity of their unit.
Joanna had finally had enough, and when she heard about Habitat at her new job with a local country club, she wasted no time reaching out.
“Her going to the country club was really a blessing,” says Angelica. “We got to learn more about Habitat and they helped us get our house.”
Now, almost five years later, their lives couldn’t be more different. They live in a beautiful home in the Legacy Lakes neighborhood in North Naples. No longer do they contend with bugs or rodents, Joanna’s affordable payment means she doesn’t have to struggle to pay bills, and Angelica is just setting out on a new journey of her own as a college student. She started school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona and says her life may have looked very different if it weren’t for her Habitat home.
“We probably would have been in a small apartment or condo in a worse school district,” she says. “It felt better to make friends and try different things because I wasn’t stressed at home. Gulf Coast High had a lot of extra activities. I was part of the medical academy; I was part of the Raiders and JROTC and band… (without that) I probably wouldn’t have even learned about Embry-Riddle because I learned about it through JROTC.”
Angelica’s top grades and extensive list of extracurriculars earned her a choice of schools—she was accepted to ten different universities. She landed on Embry-Riddle for its Homeland Security degree program. She hasn’t pinned down exactly what she wants to do after she earns her degree just yet, but careers in the FBI, Secret Service, and working in cyber security are all on her short list.
“I don’t think she’s going to be a returning Habitat homeowner.” Joanna says. “But she’ll always have a steady home here to come back to if she needs it.”
Like so many other Habitat homeowners, Joanna is proud to see her daughter breaking the cycle and working towards big dreams. And for Angelica’s part, she feels secure moving across the state for school knowing Mom has the stability of her Habitat home and the support of a close-knit community of neighbors whenever she needs it.
At just 21 years old, Jessica Senatus has already graduated from the University of South Florida’s MUMA College of Business with a whole list of honors and awards to go along with it. Steadfast in her studies, she completed in just three years what takes most people four or more.
She attributes much of her success to her parents’ determination to provide her and her siblings with a better life and building a strong community around her. Jessica was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and her family moved to the United States not long after. She wasn’t quite three years old when her parents bought their home in Naples Manor back in 2003, so her Habitat home is the only one she remembers.
“There’s not a day in my life that I had to worry about shelter,” she says. “I can’t imagine not having that stability. I know for a fact that my parents are grateful, several times a year I hear them say how thankful they are for Habitat, which shows you it’s a lasting impact.”
Living just a short walk from the Habitat Office, from a young age Jessica would accompany her parents on regular visits to pay the mortgage. Embraced by the Habitat staff, soon, the office felt like her “home away from home” and she decided that she wanted to be an office volunteer.
“She plopped in my chair one day and told me all about herself and how she was a straight-A student, what she wanted to do when she grew up, and how wonderful she was,” says Habitat Collier Director of Real Estate, Rebecca Paratore. “She kept coming back over the summer, and from age eight she was very dedicated about what she wanted to do. Her mind was made up.”
Jessica recalls that her strong will certainly didn’t go unnoticed with other members of the Habitat staff. When CEO Lisa Lefkow stopped by her middle school as “Principal for a Day,” she gave Jessica a nugget of wisdom that has stuck with her ever since.
“I remember a distinct moment when she looked at me and said ‘You know Jess, you’re a leader,’ and I thought oh, sweet! Cool!” she says. “What she said afterward was really impactful. She said, ‘But it’s up to you whether you want to be a good leader or a bad leader.’ I still think about that almost every week. After that moment, I started to get very focused on my academics, my extra curriculars, and I even applied for my first scholarship.”
She attended USF with a full scholarship while working two part-time jobs, graduating summa cum laude, debt free, and having secured a job in her field right out of school. Now, she’s a Cyber Security Defense Associate at KPMG, one of the “big four” global accounting organizations.
“When you don’t have to endure what would have happened if you didn’t have something, you forget how impactful it is. So, coming to the Habitat office was a way to remember,” she says. “I truly think that a huge chunk of my success— being able to focus on school, going to college, and just so many things that I’ve been able to do… comes from having a stable home where I knew at the end of the day that Habitat had our back. I felt like I could do anything.”
Talk of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity undoubtedly conjures up images of people giving their time on the job site, hammers and paint brushes in hand, to build homes alongside families in need. While that’s part of the work that we call on our volunteer force to do, it’s not the whole story. Volunteers serve in many different capacities at Habitat Collier—yes, on the job site— but also as staff in our ReStores, teaching English as a second language classes, mentoring families, and on our various committees.
“About 18 years ago, I got involved at Victoria Falls which was the first community that was here,” says Owen. “I did painting and then I found siding, and I really enjoyed doing siding and I did that for many, many years.”
After about five or six years on the job site, Owen wanted to know what other volunteer opportunities were available. He started working as a mentor with new applicants, helping to shepherd families through the process of purchasing their homes.
“I just felt that it was important for me to volunteer. I was fortunate enough that I had the opportunity to do that and working on the job site just didn’t fulfill all that I really wanted to do. And then I got involved in doing these other things. I got involved in selection committee, doing visits as people are applying for a Habitat home. I got involved in the budgeting class.”
Later, he became a community mentor, working with families in Regal Acres. Today, he’s helping establish the brand-new homeowner’s association at Vincent’s Acres. Owen was on hand with our staff as we carried out home closings on-site in the community—a new tradition we started during the pandemic as our office doors were closed.
“I really have a fondness for this community because I was in it from the very beginning. I got to meet people as they were given the keys to their house,” Owen says. “That’s an exciting time and it was very heartfelt for me because I felt that I was really helping them learn how to adapt to living in this brand-new home.”
Owen works with the Board of Directors for the community to make suggestions and offer a helping hand in the community to make sure that the community rules are being followed and the community continues to be as beautiful as it is now for years to come.
In addition to his role as a Homeowner’s Association volunteer, Owen also works on our Selection Committee, interviewing prospective homeowners at their current residences (and via Zoom during the pandemic) as one of the final steps of the approval process.
“It’s very heartwarming for me,” Owen says “It just makes you feel good that you’re helping others. And when you see how appreciative families are when they buy their new home, you know that what you’re doing is the right thing. It’s fantastic.”
For six months of our fiscal year, our jobs sites were closed and even when they reopened, it was at a reduced capacity. Our ReStore volunteers were the first to return to in person work while our Selection Committee maintained their critical role through Zoom. Despite these challenges, our volunteers remained committed to our mission and for that we are eternally grateful.
total value of volunteer labor
at Habitat Collier
Success Depends on You
With the continuing pandemic and the uncertainty that has come with it, business as usual has been anything but. One thing we have been blessed to count on is the support of people like you who have made it possible for this work to continue. Through your generous gifts of time, talent, and treasure, not only have we raised the funds needed to keep building homes in partnership with families in the community, but we’ve been able to uphold our high standard of stewardship over those donations to ensure that they are used most efficiently and in the areas where they are most impactful.
For the 17th time, we received a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the organization’s top honor. According to the nonprofit evaluator, organizations that earn four stars exceed industry standards and outperform most charities in their cause.
GuideStar has also awarded us the 2021 Platinum Seal of Transparency. By keeping our GuideStar profile up to date with the progress and results that we’re making towards our mission, we maintain our Platinum status so that supporters like you can feel confident in our work.
We work hard to ensure that Habitat Collier remains one of the top charitable organizations on a national level. Top rankings like these help us to know that we’re staying on course and continuing to be good stewards of each and every gift we receive.
Figures above are represented in thousands. Habitatfor Humanity of Collier County financial statements for the year ending June 30, 2021 have been audited by Rogers Wood Hil Starman & Gustason PA CPA.
Few people embody the kind of philanthropic spirit that was exemplified in our friend and faithful Habitat Collier donor, David Wang. Throughout his life, he cared truly and deeply about the wellbeing of others and walked the walk when it came to passing his blessings along to those in need.
David and his wife Cecile supported various Collier County causes: Artis Naples, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Opera Naples, FGCU Food Pantry and more. He was especially interested in helping farmworkers and their families living in Immokalee, making gifts to several local nonprofit organizations making a difference in the community, including Habitat Collier.
As an immigrant himself, coming to the United States from China as a child, he was a champion for those looking to make a better life for themselves and their children in a new country. He knew the value of a solid foundation— whether it was the literal foundation of a home, or the undeniable foundation of a good education—and that was where he invested his philanthropic efforts. He knew that investing in the fundamental elements of the lives of parents and children would offer an incredible return years down the road.
At the time of his death in February 2020, David had already given more than $500,000 to fund Habitat homes here in Collier County.
David Wang was nothing if not thoughtful and forward-thinking, and as such, he made sure his philanthropy would continue even beyond his own lifetime. As a member of our Legacy Builders Society, he included a generous one-million-dollar gift to Habitat Collier in his estate.
David is the latest in a long list of caring Habitat friends who have made Habitat Collier part of their final plans. In the 43-year history of this organization, nearly 90 individuals have contributed almost $10 million through their own estates. The Habitat partner families that their generosity impacts are a standing testament to the legacies of each and every member of our Legacy Builders Society. As those partner families grow and mature, raising children and grandchildren, building new dreams, and reaching for their own goals, they honor the memory of the Legacy Builders who offered them a critical pathway to affordable homeownership.
Together, we are Building
Many are surprised to find out that our largest source of funding is not from government grants, but from individuals, businesses, congregations, and community groups who know how important affordable housing is in a healthy community.
We’re incredibly grateful for the support of each and every one of you who makes a gift in support of this work—without you, this work would simply not be possible. Follow the link to view our list of community partners who continue to help make homeownership an attainable dream for families in Collier County.
In the interest of privacy, Habitat Collier does not print the names of individual donors.