Tom O’Brien, Mission United director, gets as many as 30 requests per month for help for veterans.
“I end up helping about 15 of them and refer the others to other agencies,” he said.
Currently on his plate: four wells, two septic tanks and about four roofs.
The “other agencies” include the Citrus County Veterans Coalition, the Citrus County Veterans Foundation and Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
Recently, The Fuller Center For Housing Nature Coast has joined the roster of help organizations in Citrus County with its Greater Blessings program.
The Fuller Center for Housing was formed in 2005 by the late Millard Fuller, who started Habitat for Humanity in 1976.
The Greater Blessings program helps people who lack the necessary funds to make repairs to their home to make it livable.
This program is primarily geared toward the elderly and/or disabled and serves veterans and non-veterans alike.
Although the program is 15 years old, it has only been in the Nature Coast area less than a year, beginning in Pasco County.
It has since moved into Hernando County and most recently, Citrus County.
“Our partnership with them is specifically for veterans, and they’ve taken over a few of my cases for home modifications,” O’Brien said. “What we’re trying to do is help get them established in Citrus County in partnership with the United Way so we can provide more of these services.”
O’Brien said he gets hung up sometimes when a project such as an exterior modification such as widening a doorway to make it wheelchair accessible needs a permit or an architect, which can cost up to several thousand dollars.
“When it comes to home repairs, I can get volunteers to do the repairs, or we can get contractors, but when we run into permitting or we need an architect or engineer, that puts a roadblock in front of us because we don’t have the capacity to do some of these things. … But with this organization partnering with me, they have a list of volunteers who are contractors and engineers and architects who are willing to help us get these things taken care of.”
Non-veterans can contact The Fuller Center for Housing Nature Coast directly, said Christi Muise, Fuller community development director.
“We’ll come out and do a home visit and assess needs, and then I pull together everyone I need to get the job done,” she said.
Who pays for this?
The Fuller Center for Housing relies on donations, as every other nonprofit organization does, but they also have a program called The Greater Blessing Program.
They ask those they help to repay the cost of materials with payments they can afford.
"There is no legal obligation to repay these loans. It is a leap of faith in the basic goodness of humankind and is proving to be very successful,” according to information from The Fuller Center for Housing’s website.
They call it “pledging it forward.”
“By having people donate it back, we can sustain ourselves,” Muise said. “That money goes to help someone else, so it’s constantly being recycled. One donation goes further than you can imagine.”
For those who absolutely cannot pay, Muise said they don’t turn anyone in need away.
Because they’re new in Citrus County, Muise has started a Pledge It Forward fundraising campaign for the month of April. She’s asking local realtors to pledge a portion of their commissions to The Fuller Center for Housing Nature Coast.
“By doing so, (they) are building hope, revitalizing our neighborhoods and enriching our community,” she said.
A Pledge It Forward donation campaign kickoff is set for 4 p.m. Thursday, March 26, at Inverness Golf and Country Club.
“Tom (O’Brien) and other organizations will be there to show the community how we can all work together,” she said.
The Fuller Center for Housing calls it “the circle of community enrichment — you give, we give, they give, and it all starts with one family and one home.”
Also needed are local engineers, architects and contractors willing to volunteer their time and services.
Contact Tom O’Brien at Mission United at 352-795-5483 or email email@example.com.