New home for the Mills family

By Allen A. Buchanan, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Habitat for Humanity presented the Mills family with their new home in Midtown last Thursday, Aug. 31while sponsoring partners, family members and well-wishers cheered.

The home, located at 1221 Union St. S, was built in partnership with the Mills family and was generously sponsored by Steve and Nancy Westphal through their 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House restaurant.

“We were joined at the hip and heart on this,” said Beach Seafood and Tap General Manager John Ruetz.

A little over a year ago, Audrey Mills and her family realized that their original home on the same site had reached the end of its life as a family dwelling.

“The repairs would cost too much so my dad decided to just tear it down,” said Mills.

Her son, Quan Hamma, introduced her to Habitat for Humanity. After being accepted into the program, volunteers and family members helped build a brand new three-bedroom home on the same property where the original wood-frame house stood for 30 years.

The son also contributed the necessary 150-volunteer hours in place of his grandfather. In order to be eligible for a Habitat home, the primary family who would be residing in the home must complete at least 400-450 volunteer hours of sweat equity before acquiring their new home.

The volunteer hours include watching safety videos, learning about waivers, instruction on home maintenance and repairs, and signing in and out on volunteer workdays. Although children under the age of 16 are not allowed on the construction site for insurance reasons, they may earn sweat equity hours in other ways.

While the repairs were being done, Mills said that she along with her father and granddaughter lived around the corner in her grandmother’s house.

In addition to the physical labor involved in the Habitat homeownership program, Mills talked about the courses that she took to fulfill part of the requirements.

“It’s a 17-course step that you have to take from planting to nailing, parenting classes to financial aid classes and home study classes.”

All of the home ownership courses empowered Mills to believe that she could handle any situation related to her new home.

“At least if anything goes wrong in my home, I can pretty much fix anything myself now before I have to call a repairman.”

Gibbs High School senior Emonie Tarver did not sit idly by while her grandmother put in her sweat equity.

“It was hard work but fun though,” said Emonie, who helped her grandmother as much as she could with one exception.

“Me and a hammer did not get along too well!”

Chief Executive Officer Michael Sutton praised his staff for the role they played to ensure families such as the Mills experience affordable home ownership from the ground up.

“I have the amazing pleasure and privilege of working alongside some amazing individuals that call Habitat their work home,” said Sutton.

Home Owner Services Coordinator Ally Beausir presented the family with the keys to their new home.

“Today, it’s all about the Mills family,” said Beausir. “Once Audrey and her father were accepted into the program, we were able to make it possible for their new home to be built on the same property that held so many of their memories.”

The former wood frame three-bedroom house was replaced with steel, reinforced concrete walls for hurricane resistance and energy efficiency. The Mills were able to personalize their dwelling by selecting their kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities along with countertops and the exterior color of their home.

Dave Gerald of Anona United Methodist Church in Largo presented the Mills family with a basket of essentials to help them get started in their new home.

“In your new home, we hope you find a place for private prayer, a place to teach the word of God to your granddaughter and to provide hospitality for all who are going to come across that new welcome mat in just a few minutes,” said Gerald.

Habitat’s Kebron Mason presented the Mills family with a check to help them purchase furniture and appliances for their new home as the family’s cheering committee let loose again.

Mayor Rick Kriseman was on hand to thank Habitat for Humanity and the Westphals for their major contribution in building a home for the Mills family.

Rep. Wengay Newton grew up in the same community where the Mills have their family roots. He said when three or four old homes are torn down that one or two new homes must take their place.

To help secure funding to build a new home for the Mills, Sutton partnered with Ruetz and the Westphals, who contributed over $60,000 towards the construction of the new house.

After the house blessing, Mills opened the door of her new home for the first time after its total completion for a tour.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity, please contact one of the following:

Volunteer Questions:

Development Questions:

ReStore Donation or Shopping Questions:

Homeownership Questions:

To reach Allen Buchanan, email

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