By Sarah Garcia - August 16, 2021
As a single mom to 3-year-old twin girls and full-time team member at Moffitt Cancer Center, Shalonda Granger leads a busy life. But in the midst of it all, she still makes time for setting personal goals. Becoming a homeowner has always been at the top of her list.
“In trying to get a home on my own, I quickly realized that it was much more difficult than I had expected it be to — you know?”
Granger is paired with a caseworker through the Healthy Families program in Hillsborough County, which partners with families or mothers who need help parenting. “Me being a first-time mom with twins and not having family here, I enrolled in that program and have been with my caseworker since my girls were 6 months old.”
Granger says her caseworker encouraged her to apply for Habitat for Humanity. “I was familiar with it, I had seen the commercials on TV but wasn’t sure how it worked and it was never really on my radar because I thought I would get a home by traditional means.”
One of the biggest myths is that the nonprofit gives away homes for free. In reality, Habitat partners with eligible families to help them build and own a home with an affordable mortgage.
At first, Granger’s application was denied. She isn’t one to give up, though. As a childhood survivor of synovial sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer, she knows a thing or two about perseverance.
After getting her finances in order, she reapplied. In November 2020, she was finally approved to begin the process of building her home through Habitat.
“I didn’t want my daughters to go through what I’ve gone through. My mom was a single mom, too, and didn’t have the tools or support she needed. We moved around a lot,” Granger said. “I want my daughters to have this stable place to grow, live and thrive. It’s going to help them in childhood and even as they become adults.”
Not only is she providing that stable foundation, but Granger is setting the ultimate example for her girls. The Habitat building process demands hard work, or sweat equity as they call it. By move in day, she’ll have put in 300 hours of sweat equity, which includes construction work on her home and the homes of others, participation in homeownership classes and more.
“Anyone would appreciate a new home, but the fact that you poured your literal blood, sweat and tears into building this definitely helps you to appreciate it more,” she said.
When they’re old enough, Granger will have a unique story and lesson to share with her daughters. As part of Habitat’s Women Build initiative, women volunteers from around the community assisted with the construction of her home.
"I hope they feel encouraged by this. I can tell them that mommy, along with other women, built this home. I hope they will see there’s so much that’s possible, to never give up or limit yourself, even when things get difficult."- Shalonda Granger
“I hope they feel encouraged by this. I can tell them that mommy, along with other women, built this home,” she said. “I hope they will see there’s so much that’s possible, to never give up or limit yourself, even when things get difficult.”
As a result of the pandemic, there have been some setbacks and delays, but Granger’s home is nearing completion and she hopes to be able to move in by the end of summer.
From the floorplan to the cabinets, countertops and even the roof shingles, Granger has hand selected the different elements of her home.
But it’s not really the little details she’s looking forward to; it’s simply having a space and bed to call her own. Well-deserved and so very appreciated after the nearly seven months of hard work that went into it.
“I’m just so thankful to be able to achieve this goal of homeownership,” she said.