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Habitat home dedicated to volunteer

By Staff | Mar 24, 2015

In the history of Habitat for Humanity, there has never been a home built in honor of a volunteer.

On Friday, the local chapter broke from tradition and dedicated its newest home to a man who has had a hand in most of the nearly 1,300 homes Habitat for Humanity has built or renovated in its more than 25-year history.

Harold Elsesser, one of the longest continuously serving volunteer in the history of Habitat, was given the rare honor when the home he helped refurbish on Winsome Road was dedicated in his name.

“Every dedication at Habitat is very special and unique. This is the first time we have ever dedicated a home in honor of a volunteer,” said Rebecca Sanders-Lucas, of Habitat for Humanity. “We are so honored to dedicate this home in his honor. He has laid hands on more than 1,000 homes and given tens of thousands of house of service.”

Elsesser, who turns 91 next month, had much of his crew and loved ones there for the occasion, and he was given many tokens of appreciation such as a paperweight containing 91 nails in it, and a plaque courtesy of Margaret Baugher of Senior Friendship Centers.

As for the honor, Elsesser, who has rarely appeared at any of the home dedications, was very humbled.

“It wasn’t my idea. I don’t know how I feel. I continue to work for them because of the pay,” Elsesser joked. “It’s just been a habit, something I should do.”

Those who work with Elsesser, nicknamed “Harold’s Group” certainly felt he deserved the honor.

“It’s been wonderful to get out and be active in retirement. I enjoy doing it. Harold has put in a lot of hours and it’s quite an accomplishment,” said crew member Bill Barbre.

“I had been a desk jockey most of my career. Construction was new to me. This has been going great and Harold has been great helping me,” said Bob Capp.

Of course, the event was also about the home owners, and Luis Ortiz and Maria Rivera, were given the keys to the home from Elsesser.

The couple was required to put in 300 hours of sweat equity for Habitat, take home ownership classes and put $1,700 down in closing costs.

“For them it signifies an entirely new life for them, a transformational moment that we celebrate,” Sanders-Lucas said.

Ana Villacis of Habitat handed the couple an American flag, a Bible in Spanish and a doorknocker, as well as food and cleaning supplies from Proctor & Gamble, a Habitat partner.

The couple owned a home in Cape Coral for years, but had to leave in 2010, when it was discovered their home had Chinese drywall and black mold.

They applied for help from Habitat and got a second chance at being homeowners today.

“We share this with our friends and family. This is a very important thing for us. They opened the door for my family and myself, and for my friends and relatives,” Ortiz said.

Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry counties will build or restored 55 homes this year and has built or restored more than 1,300 homes in its history.