Florida International University

A Miami-Dade school “cafeteria lady” is working alongside local women volunteers and Habitat for

Humanity to build her brand-new home in Liberty City.
Torianan Coleman and her sons, Deotray Coleman, 10, and Jayden Fox, 1, were awarded the Northwest 20th Avenue dwelling now under construction by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami and Lowe's.

Construction on the home, part of Habitat's “Women Build” program, began Monday, April 19. It is scheduled to be complete in 10 work days, ready to occupy by Mother's Day, May 9.

“It means a lot because I’m 28 years old and my dream was to become a homeowner before 30, and now I’m building one from ground up, just for me and my kids,” said Coleman, a food service manager at Norland Middle School who must contribute 250 hours of “sweat equity” work before receiving it.

“This gave me more responsibility of owning a home as opposed to renting an apartment, and now I can tell myself I can actually do this and do anything I want to. It's a huge accomplishment and it's made me stronger,” she said.

Building the Coleman family's home is part of Habitat and Lowe’s “Women Build” initiative, challenging women to devote a day to eliminate poverty housing. Habitat and the home improvement chain sponsor National Women Build Week, May 1-9. More than 200 women volunteers, as well as the Belafonte Tacolcy Center and Miami-Dade County Corrections, are helping construct the house.

Stephanie Sylvestre, lead volunteer of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami, began working with Coleman after the successful completion of a Women Build house in Liberty City last summer. She now hopes to do two projects a year in the neighborhood.

“I fell in love with this area and decided that if I go forward with any of my non-profit endeavors, it would only be in Liberty City,” Sylvestre said, “It's a forgotten area of Miami that has a lot of potential.”

Volunteers working on the house say they want to help build community.

“It's not about money, it's about giving back,” said Dianna Deaving, who worked on the project Tuesday, April 20. “When I heard there is a Women Build, I knew I wanted to build a house and say ‘All women built it.’”

Coleman applied for the home in September 2009.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami did background and financial checks to make certain she was eligible, and visited her home in Overtown to see how she lived.

One month later, her application was approved, and she began to invest “sweat equity,” by volunteering to help build other Habitat homes and attending weekly homeowner workshops.

“The people I work with are wonderful and it makes me feel good getting up every Saturday morning and getting out there to volunteer, whether at my home or someone else's,” Coleman said.

The three-bedroom, 1075-square-foot house, cost $60,000 to sponsor, and comes with a stove and refrigerator, and hookups for a washer and dryer.

Miami-Dade County donated the land, and Habitat pays for material and plumbing, along with electrical installations.

Coleman will make payments on a $125,000 interest-free mortgage for between 15 and 30 years. Habitat sets the payments to be less than 30 percent of the new homeowner's income.