“It’s a great feeling when we have the security of shelter,” said Lt. Governor, Jennifer Allison- Ray, at the open house and dedication of a home built for Bernice and Emery Brown Sr. from D5.
The elderly couple had been affected by fiberglass contamination from an old mobile home they were living in, which replaced another home that had previously burned down. With many of their family there for the ceremony, the couple was elated to see their new Palm Harbor home.
James Cutter, Acting Director of the Department of Community Housing, thanked everyone who was a part of the collaborative effort in helping accommodate the Brown family. Cutter said, “We did as much as we could, as fast as we could. A lot of people helped, not just one person, to get the family what they needed.”
Cutter extended his gratitude to the D5 Service Center, the Department of Planning and Zoning, the Executive Office, Finance, SCIP, GRICUA, the Department of Community Housing and Palm Harbor among many others.
Richard Garcia, General Manager for Palm Harbor Homes at Lone Butte, told the family that he was proud to present the home to them. Garcia said it was great to see the Community work together for such a worthwhile cause and also that he hoped the home would bring them happiness.
Community Manager, Tina Notah said she felt both happy and emotional to see the family being presented with their new home. Notah said that when first she heard about the fiberglass incident, it broke her heart to think about these elders having to deal with a situation like that. As a Community Manager, she said it caused her to look at how the Community really defines a crisis.
“This was truly an emergency crisis,” Notah said.
Before being presented with the keys to the home, the Brown family was given time to express their gratitude and reflect on watching their home being built.
“We came and watched as they worked so hard and fast. It seemed like they were playing,” Bernice Brown said jokingly. “It was really interesting watching them build.”
Brown talked about how the fiberglass in their previous trailer had gotten on their skin and left them with ugly scars. “At times it was bad. I started praying about it that somehow it would go away but it got to us. I would just pray to get my strength to go on,” she said.
The family had come a long way and through many difficulties to get to this point and Brown said that she was happy the day had finally come when her house was finished. “The joy that I feel today, it seems like it’s just a dream,” she said. “With all my heart, I thank you.”
Emery Brown Sr. also thanked everyone who came to the dedication and the workers involved. “Finally we got help. It’s been a long time since the house burned, that we got help. But it’s alright now,” Brown said.
He told an anecdotal story about how once when it rained hard; his wife was stranded at the outhouse as it quickly became surrounded by pools of water. The crowd and family members all laughed but Brown used the story to exemplify the fact that they would no longer have to deal with situations like these.
The Brown’s new home has certainly brought with it a sense of security that he elders have sought after.
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