A student-run Habitat for Humanity Club at Cypress Bay High School founded by graduating senior Matthew Liebman recently donated almost $20,000 to sponsor the construction of two homes in A Rick Case Habitat Community, a 77-home build located in Pompano Beach. Liebman received an honorable mention in the 2019 Silver Knight Awards for the social science project and said he found his interaction with future home owners and fellow students to be even more rewarding.
Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity of Broward brings people together to build homes, communities and hope, offering a “hand up” not a “hand out” to low to very low-income families who are unable to qualify for conventional financing but are willing to work hard to improve their family’s lives.
After his early experience in clubs in high school, Liebman wanted to get involved in something that would make more of a real impact in people’s lives, so he decided to start a Habitat for Humanity chapter.
Having relocated to South Florida from Detroit, Matthew remembered the automotive crisis of 2008 that contributed to the poverty and a housing crisis there. “Seeing this need, knowing that giving people a home could help them in the long term, and seeing that now I had the power and authority to create an organization and lead it with creativity and innovation was really where everything started,” Liebman said.
He was introduced to Habitat for Humanity by a relative and then visited a build site to determine if it was something he wanted to get involved with. At the site, Liebman struck up a conversation with a man and his daughter who were also volunteering. “We were painting together and having a good time, and he asked me to come to this ceremony and take pictures. I didn’t know what the ceremony was, but it happened to be a home dedication ceremony where he was getting his home and, of course, he was very emotional. To think I was painting alongside someone who was getting this home. That made me feel incredible to think that all of our hard work and effort and time could be used to change someone else’s life.”
Liebman started the Habitat chapter at Cypress Bay High School three years ago, and said students go out to volunteer at a build site or a re-store almost every other week. This year they had more than 400 people sign up for the club, and over the years they’ve done multiple fundraisers. They started with bake sales and garage sales, then partnered with local businesses to do fundraisers where the club would get a portion of the profits for the night. This year they started their own clothing company, selling shirts and hats to classmates. They held a Habitat Day at school in which they set up a booth and sold cookies. They sold coupon cards, hosted athletic tournaments and also partnered with a new diner in Coral Springs that donated the proceeds from their opening day.
With $22,000 in their bank account at the end of the year, Liebman said they were able to sponsor two homes in A Rick Case Habitat Community.
Victoria Griffin, a future homeowner in the community, said, “This home means everything to me. This will provide a safe and stable home for myself and my boys, who are equally excited. And being the youngest of five and the first homeowner, I feel accomplished and proud of myself.”
Prospective Habitat homeowner families make a down payment and contribute 300 hours of “sweat equity” on the construction of their home or someone else’s home.
Initially getting involved in clubs to have something to put on a college resume, Liebamn said, “Along the way I really fell in love with this and had a true passion that was pretty incredible.”
Liebman plans to attend Florida State University in the fall, majoring in political science with aspirations of becoming a lawyer, and is also interested in marketing and advertising.
For more information on Habitat for Humanity Broward, visit habitatbroward.org