Tampa Bay Execs To Participate In Habitat’s CEO Build Event

Over 50 community and businesses leaders in Tampa Bay are coming together to build a home for a local family in Pinellas this week. 

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties kicked off the inaugural CEO Build event Wednesday evening at the Cordova Inn in downtown St. Petersburg. 

The future home recipient, Jasmine Middlebrooks, is a nurse at Tampa General Hospital and has undergone multiple obstacles burdening her both financially and emotionally. 

Habitat for Humanity CEO Mike Sutton with Jasmine Middlebrooks, right, and Evette Hunter, another home recipient. 

“This is a dream come true,” Middlebrooks said. “Without you guys, we wouldn’t be able to afford this and be in our forever home. I can’t thank you enough. I lost my mother, got a divorce, and have become a full-time mother while trying to work –  it has been stressful. Affordable housing is so hard to come by.”

After a year of living with her mother and saving up money to support her family, Middlebrooks was in a car crash and had to purchase a new car. Two weeks later, her mother unexpectedly passed away and they had to move out of her home.

Her new future home will be at 6361 67th Way N. in Pinellas Park. CEO participants started swinging hammers on Thursday (today) and will regroup Saturday, and again March 4, at the site. 

“Five years ago, we started kicking around this idea of how we could bring the local community leaders together who are C-Suite folks to really address affordable homeownership. All of you have employee bases that are feeling it right now,” Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties CEO Mike Sutton said.

“We are running out of places to put people. We are seeing many people leave on a daily basis. They are moving to Manatee County, up north to Pasco and Hernando counties and in some cases, leaving Tampa Bay as a whole. It’s going to be really important for us over the next few years to continue to find ways to address affordable housing.” 

Sutton reminded the attendees that “this is not a giveaway program.” He explained that the future homeowners go through 25 homebuyer education courses, and put in anywhere from 350 to 400 sweat equity hours into building the home.  

The homeowners will have a 0% interest mortgage, which is key to creating generational wealth through homeownership. 

Habitat for Humanity has built 730 homes and out of those homes, there were six foreclosures, which took place over 15 years ago, Sutton said regarding the success rate. 

The Honorary Chairs of the 2022 CEO Build are retail veteran Mindy Grossman, President and CEO of WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and formerly the CEO of the Home Shopping Network, and Bill Brand, CEO of Rue21 and a Habitat for Humanity International Board Member. 

“At HSN, Mindy led the way and said, ‘We could do more to support our community.’ That was the inspiration that I needed and our company needed to become involved,” Brand said during the event. He has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for over a decade. 

“When I think about the time together [building homes and supporting Habitat], that’s the legacy we want to have,” he said. “I think once you do it, you get connected in a very impactful way. I love knowing that these families, with their kids, will have a permanent place and know you the kids will go to the same school every year and have better health care, and mom and dad are going to have better career opportunities. You put that all together and they are going to have a better life.” 

“When Bill called me [about this], I could not think of anything more powerful,” Grossman said, who said she has worked on five homes.

“For many years, we would literally ask people to sign up and now to see other CEOs do that for the community and inspire their teams and just to see and hand the keys to the family whose lives have been changed, it’s so rewarding,” she said. “These are incredible families who work really hard …

Blue helmets were displayed on a table representing the 50-plus executives taking part in the annual CEO Home Build. 

“The reason why so many CEOs signed on to this is they know it’s a purpose-driven mission, and it is critical to attracting talent, developing talent,” Grossman said to the St. Pete Catalyst.

The 53 executives supporting the home build include a wide spectrum of executives from the health care industry to hospitality and development. The organizations include First Citrus Bank, Tampa Bay Business and Wealth Magazine, the New Hotel Collection Group, Tampa General Hospital, Big Storm Brewery and Distillery, Kolter Urban LLC and many others. The full list can be found here

“For the hotel, we want to be able to bring families to St. Pete and not be priced out,” said Thomas Del Zoppo, partner at the New Hotel Collection Group, who manages the Cordova Inn.  

“It’s up to us to solve this problem.” 

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