Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County announces Pride Build

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County has announced its inaugural Pride Build, inviting members of the LGBTQ community and their allies to build a home in St. Petersburg.

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County is a locally run affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, the global nonprofit housing organization that builds and sells homes to qualified buyers at zero percent interest and no profit. Since 1985, the local chapter has served over 600 families, built over 500 homes and funded over 450 homes overseas. On March 1, it merged with Habitat for Humanity of West Pasco County.

The organization announced its Pride Build following a diversity and inclusion program it launched after substantial growth. “We went from 20 staff members about five years ago to over 70 after the merger,” CEO Mike Sutton says. “One of the things we’ve realized as we’ve grown is that we’re no longer the ‘mom and pop’ shop. We wanted to make sure we were reflecting the community we serve and that we are also investing in that community.”

The organization currently offers a number of specialty builds, including a Men’s Build, Women’s Build and Veterans’ Build. The Pride Build aims to raise awareness that Habitat Pinellas can be a resource for those in the LGBTQ community.

“We have such a strong LGBTQ community here,” Sutton says. “We’ve served families in the past where someone in the household identifies as being LGBTQ—and given how strong the community has gotten in St. Petersburg, we want to figure out how we can show people that Habitat can help them achieve their dreams of owning their own home.”

To strengthen the organization’s efforts, Sutton and three employees, Development Associate Val Brinkley, Site & Warehouse Operations Manager Kristi Thum and Director of Construction Rick Vail, formed a Pride committee. “Affordable housing is a concern for everybody,” Vail says. “I think there’s a big need in the LGBTQ community, but there’s something holding the community back from asking for help. We want to put it out there that we have affordable homes—and if you qualify, we can build you one.”

The build is also a way for those in the LGBTQ community who aren’t struggling with affordable housing to give back to the community at large, Brinkley adds. “We are very lucky to live in a place like St. Pete that is so welcoming to us, and where we have such a big Pride,” she says. “It’s just a way to give back to the community that has supported us—because one more person in affordable, safe housing is a benefit to the community as a whole.”

Sutton says that the homeowner candidate benefiting from the Pride Build will either identify as a member of the LGBTQ community will have a family member that does so.

“There will be some sort of connection,” he says. “The purpose of this build is to engage the LGBTQ community.”

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County’s Pride Build isn’t currently scheduled, though the organization intends to launch the initiative in 2019. Sponsorship opportunities are now available.

To learn more, visit HabitatPinellas.org or contact Val Brinkley at VBrinkley@HabitatPinellas.org or (727) 536-4755, ext. 236.

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