On February 26th, Habitat Collier celebrated its major donors and Legacy Builders at the annual Pacesetter Dinner. One of the night’s highlights was the opportunity to hear keynote speakers Sara and Douglas ‘Lenny” Griff. Sara shared the heartbreaking health challenges their children have faced while Lenny broke down in tears as he described what it meant for his family to be approved for homeownership. For those in attendance, the emotional evening was a clear reminder of why our work together is so critical.
Safety is also of utmost concern as the Griff’s apartment complex has been witness to a little girl being run over by a car, a neighbor overdosing on drugs, and another neighbor being shot in the face
Sara first met her future husband Douglas “Lenny” Griff when they both attended Barron Collier High School. After graduation, they became reacquainted, fell in love and married. The Griff’s had a son, Manny who is now nine years-old. Four years after Manny was born, the Griff’s learned they would be blessed with another baby. When daughter Haven was born, she was diagnosed with a heart condition in her double inlet left ventricle with pulmonary stenosis and atresia. Haven’s first heart surgery occurred when she was only eight days old. Sara teared up as she recounted that Haven was given only a 50 percent chance of survival. Miraculously, Haven beat the odds. At six months old, Haven underwent a second surgery with a 20 percent chance of survival. Again, the surgery was a success. Haven’s third operation occurred at two years old and today, she is a very happy and outgoing five year-old. Despite the challenges, Haven continues to beat the odds and her medical team is hopeful there will be no additional surgeries. In fact, Haven has just been given the go ahead to join a cheerleading squad.
However, the atrocious conditions of their rental apartment, especially the black mold which has infested the unit, has added setbacks to Haven’s recovery and caused Manny to develop asthma. Despite multiple calls for maintenance, the shower has not worked in three years. With only two bedrooms, Haven and Manny are forced to share a bedroom. Knowing this was not the place they wanted to raise their children, Sara and Lenny desperately tried to apply for a traditional mortgage only to be turned down multiple times. Sara and Lenny were on their last ounce of hope when they came to apply for a Habitat for Humanity home.
Sara describes the day they were approved for homeownership as very emotional for the whole family. Haven exclaimed, “I’m finally going to have a home, Mommy!” Now, when Sara thinks about their future, she tells Manny and Haven that their dreams have no limit. In fact, at nine years old, Manny has already decided he wants to attend the University of Miami and become a cardiologist to help kids like his sister. With the dream of a brand new home on the horizon, the Griff’s highly anticipate the day they will leave their old apartment behind and finally have a home of their own.