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Stilwell Enterprises & Restaurant Group sponsors Habitat for Humanity home in Harlem Heights

By Staff | Aug 17, 2016

Members of the Fort Myers High School Habitat Club helped to raise the walls of a new home in Harlem Heights in late July. PHOTO PROVIDED

Sandy Stilwell, owner and CEO of Stilwell Enterprises, has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for years, but now, she will be the sole sponsor for a new home going up in Harlem Heights. The house will be built at 15331 Codie Street. A handful on Stilwell’s employees will assist with the wall raising Saturday, Aug. 27 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The deadline to register is Aug. 18 at 7:30 a.m.

“This is the first time I’ve sponsored a whole house.

It’s a big commitment on my part but I think it’s a great cause,” Stilwell said.

She became interested in the cause after hearing that Habitat for Humanity was President Jimmy Carter’s charity of choice when she was younger. Stilwell has grown up in Lee County and witnessed the many transitions Harlem Heights has gone through.

“I grew up here and my kids went to Heights Elementary so I watched that whole neighborhood of Harlem Heights which was a bunch of shacks in really horrible, horrible shape and see how [Habitat for Humanity] would come in and tear down the old shacks and build CBS homes. Now, you feel very safe driving through Harlem Heights. There’s bicyclists and people who walk through there. Years back, you wouldn’t have even considered doing that,” Stilwell said.

Members of the Fort Myers High School Habitat Club helped to raise the walls of a new home in Harlem Heights in late July. PHOTO PROVIDED

To become eligible for a home, individuals must put forth 300 sweat equity hours, put down $1,700 for closing costs and complete financial literacy classes. Last year, Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties built 25 new houses and rehabilitated 30.

Communication Director of Habitat for Humanity, Cathy Chestnut says that over the past few years, rent has skyrocketed in Lee County, making rent unaffordable for many families.

“We have an affordable housing crisis in this area with rent going up. What we do is provide strength, stability and self-reliance for families. If they know what their monthly mortgage is, they can budget and plan for the future,” Chestnut said.

According to data from the 2010 U.S. Census, 31 percent of Harlem Heights families live below the federal poverty level and 70 percent of children living in Harlem Heights live in single-parent households.

Chestnut is grateful for Stilwell financially sponsoring the home and all the support she has received from the community as a whole.

Volunteers for a local business at a wall-raising in Harlem Heights in April. PHOTO PROVIDED

“Every wall raising event is a happy occasion because we know that a future home buyer will be moving in. We could not do it without companies like Stilwell Enterprises or any of our supporters in the community,” Chestnut said.

To register to volunteer, go to vhub.at/stilwellenterprises.

Volunteers for a local business at a wall-raising in Harlem Heights in April. PHOTO PROVIDED