The Riverview High School Rams basketball team gave a new meaning to "playing in the paint" Saturday morning when they helped paint a Habitat For Humanity Sarasota home.
While it was fun for players, it wasn't necessarily playing though, as the teenagers spent hours applying coat after coat on walls, trims and molding at 4227 Larkin St.
"I think building a house would have been really cool, not gonna lie, but I'm cool with the painting aspect of it," said Lex Sayre, an 11th grader and member of the Rams. "Keep it simple."
The team volunteered in exchange for a team sponsorship from the Havener Financial Group of Janney Montgomery Scott, which it's equally as thankful for.
"I mentioned to them that we really, really wanted to do a community service project for our basketball team so our basketball team learns about giving back to the community and understanding that our program is bigger than basketball," head coach BJ Ivey tells Patch. "We always want our kids to become better people first and foremost, and be better students then be better athletes."
The Haveners had done Habitat For Humanity before and shared with Ivey how much fun they had and Ivey was convinced it would be a worthwhile experience for the team. The generous sponsorship from the financial services firm is providing everything from basketballs to new uniforms and helping pay for two overnight stays for tournaments in the City of Palms and at the Orlando Thanks For Hoops, Ivey said.
Ivey showed up at 7:15 a.m., and most of his players were already at the home eager to go to work, painting closet doors, the exterior, interior of the garage, baseboards and every nook and cranny that could be found.
Sayre joined by his teammates were applying a second coat of paint three hours into the job. To him, the experience will not only build a house, but a team.
"We have high expectations for all of us and I think if we work together as a team, like we're doing now, then I think the sky's the limit for us," Sayre siad.
Christy Duffy and her two kids will soon call the home her own.
"I can't wait, I can't wait," Duffy tells Patch. "Hopefully before Christmas so it'll be a good Christmas present for my kids to be in our own home."
And to have Riverview's basketball team help out Saturday was a bonus, too.
"The kids have been really great," she said. "And they're really tall—they don't need ladders. They can get to the top without them."
Duffy applied to the program after she was forced to move to a Bradenton apartment when a house she was renting in Sarasota was sold by its owner.
The last year has been nonstop for Duffy between raising her kids, working at a firm, taking the required financial management and home ownership classes and working on building homes on Saturdays with Habitat and then church on Sundays.
"It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, especially to own your own home and a brand new one" Duffy said.
To become qualified for the home, Duffy had to go through a stringent application process to prove financial independence, and contribute 300 sweat equity hours working on their homes and others' homes, and in terms can receive an interest-free mortgage for the home, said Habitat volunteer coordinator Vicki Copeland.
Prior to Duffy's home, she worked on the home of four other Habitat recipients.
"It's nice to be finally working on my own and seeing it come together," Duffy said. "I've learned how to put doors in, put windows in, laid a lot of grass, done a lot of painting."
The project is volunteer-driven ranging from folks with specialization in electrical work, carpentry, tile or to your neighborhood basketball team willing to paint the walls, said Habitat volunteer coordinator Vicki Copeland.
"Thursday for instance, we had a group of real construction people from Pulte Homes, so that was really a treat because they could do a lot of the hands-on complicated construction," Copeland said. "But if you just want to give a morning of your time, we really appreciate it."
Don Avolio is the project leader for the 1,220-square-foot home, and said this home is different from most Habitat homes in the area as it has a garage.
"If the neighborhood has garages, we try to blend it," he said. "Sometimes, it's cheap construction, it really is, and it isn't that expensive to put a garage in square footage wise."
Habitat continues with a cycle of homes, usually having two to three homes going at a time, and is working on a home rehab on 25th Street that is wrapping up in time for a new home to be built off of McIntosh Road,
Duffy's ownership also signifies a full-circle for Habitat For Humanity in Sarasota.
"On Dec. 8, we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary of the first woman who closed on her home in the Jordan's Crossings community," Copeland said. "There are now 79 families living in Habitat homes that we have built over the last 10 years."
Habitat is also looking for a veteran for its next home build, Copeland added.
Habitat For Humanity Sarasota was founded in 1985 and has built 191 homes in Sarasota County since its inception.
To Volunteer At Habitat For Humanity, call 941-365-0700, ext. 129 or visit www.habitatsrq.org.