BRADENTON, FL - For Goodwill Manasota team member Demetrius "Mimi" Williams, there has been plenty of excitement over the past couple of years. Last year, she was working at a Goodwill Bargain Barn when she found $12,270 in cash among donations from a late community member's estate and turned that money in immediately; the story was picked up by the media and went viral. Then, earlier this month – with the assistance of Goodwill's Homebuyer's Club program and Community Solutions 360 – Williams purchased and moved into a brand-new home in Manatee County, just in time for the holiday season. This was the first home purchase for the 61-year-old in her lifetime.
Williams did not always have such positive happenings in her life. She experienced some dark days, followed by an arrest, conviction and a long stretch in prison. When she was released from jail, she had a tough time getting back on her feet – even living in her car for a time. Fortunately, Goodwill Manasota is a second-chance employer and the organization hired her nearly five years ago. She has been an exemplary employee, impressing her managers and earning her Role Model Worker badge.
For several years, Williams has been looking after three of her grandchildren, with the family living in a cramped two-bedroom house in North Sarasota. Two years ago, Williams decided it was time for a change: she spoke with her GoodPartner Coach, Diana Olivieri, about participating in Goodwill's Homebuyer's Club, with the goal of purchasing a home of her own. Since then, Williams has worked on her credit, learned how to set and follow a budget - tracking spending on a daily basis, worked on purchasing habits that result in savings, and even learned how to write and shop for a set menu, which saves money and time and reduces stress when it comes time for the family to eat.
Olivieri praised Williams' determination. "Home ownership is not for everyone – participants need to think about this and make an informed decision," she said. "From day one, Mimi knew she wanted a house and did exactly what she needed to do in order to pay off all of her bills. She is a positive example to others - it has been a pleasure working with her and I'm sure she will enjoy her house for many years to come!"
Once Williams had proven herself ready to take the next step, she was turned over to Laura Carter at Community Solutions 360, an organization that works with local municipalities and secures financial assistance through state and federal grants to help those with economic barriers to achieve the dream of home ownership. The organization was created in 2000 – it was formerly known as "GoodHomes of Manasota" and was a subsidiary of Goodwill Manasota, with Carter reporting to a Goodwill vice president – but became an independent entity in 2013.
Finding the right property for Williams took about a year. Carter ended up securing a plot that had been vacant since 1991 from Manatee County. As Community Solutions 360 is a HUD Approved Counseling Agency, it enables the organization to do one-on-one housing counseling and an eight-hour education class for the prospective homeowners. Once these are satisfactorily completed, the prospective homeowner is eligible for down payment assistance; Williams received $30,000 toward her house down payment.
Williams closed on her home on November 18th. She moved in later that day with the assistance of her grandchildren and a handful of Marines who have taken one of her grandkids – who has committed to joining the Marines upon his graduation from high school in the spring – under their wing.
Carter is enthused about the family’s prospects. "Oh my gosh – Mimi is the best of the best! Everything that I've asked her to do, everything Diana asked her to do, she's done and she's exceeded what we've asked of her,” she said. “Her desire to be in the house is monumental. She is committed 200% and she is going to succeed. Plus, she has a base around her for support. She's got Team Goodwill plus Community Solutions 360 to ensure she succeeds."
PHOTO ID: In attendance during Mimi Williams’ (front, seated) move into her new home were (from l-r) Goodwill Mecca store manager Jeff Motchok, GoodPartner Coach Diana Olivieri, Mimi’s grandchildren Okera and Brenden Brewster, and Laura Carter and Nancy Crawford of Community Solutions 360
About Goodwill Manasota Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit www.experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.