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Bayside High teacher becomes a first-time homeowner thanks to Habitat for Humanity

Taisja Witherspoon had one specific vision when she first applied to be a Habitat for Humanity homeowner: having birthday parties for her three-year-old son Xavier in the back yard.

“Number one: my son gets to grow up in a home,” Witherspoon said from her new kitchen when she received her keys last Friday. “I am excited for what this means moving forward; it’s something to leave him.”

Witherspoon found out she was accepted into the Habitat program on Sept. 26, 2022. According to Mike Sutton, president and CEO of Habitat Pinellas and West Pasco, the process from application to acceptance typically takes a couple of months and only about 10 out of every 250 applicants are approved.

But after that, the success rate is nearly 100%.

“If a family has the income, the steady employment and they’re willing to partner with Habitat by putting in the sweat equity and taking the classes, we can get them into a new home,” Sutton said.

For Witherspoon, the opportunity means a steady mortgage payment and the chance to show her son that hard work pays off. She had to put in at least 350 “sweat equity” hours as well as take 32 homeowner-associated classes, learning everything from budgeting to small home repairs and maintenance.

Habit broke ground on the Witherspoon home on May 15, 2023. Witherspoon and her son were previously living with her mom, brother, grandmother and son without a room to call her own. She is now the proud owner of a two-bedroom home on a quiet street where Xavier can ride his bike.

“I just want to thank Habitat for staying true – for believing in me, for supporting me,” Witherspoon said while her family and friends gathered around her new front porch. “This is something that would have taken a lot longer without Habitat.”

To learn more about the Habitat program please visit the Apply Page of the website.