Hope Moves One Step Closer to Reality

Groundbreaking for 70 new units of rental housing for farmworkers

On January 15, 2004, the Fellsmere Community Enrichment Program (FCEP) broke ground for Whispering Pines Apartments, new housing for farmworkers in Indian River County, Florida - home of world famous Indian River Citrus. In addition to 70 rental units, there will be a resident manager's apartment, maintenance room, laundry room, spacious childcare center and a community room. A variety of services will be made available to tenants by local partners:

  • Redland Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) will manage the day care center.
  • Fellsmere Medical Center will provide health services.
  • Harbor Federal Savings Bank will offer Money Management Training.
  • Indian River Community College will hold ESL classes.

FCEP has been awarded $6 million in HUD HOME funds through the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and $2.5 million in USDA Rural Development 514/516 funds. These loan and grant applications were prepared with assistance from Florida Non-Profit Housing (FNPH), located in Sebring, Florida. FNPH is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor to provide technical assistance to organizations wishing to develop housing for farmworkers.

Initial pre-development costs of approximately $15,000 were provided by FCEP President Hope Leet, as a personal loan to the brand new 501(c)(3). This loan was essential to moving the project forward quickly. The funds were used for incorporation, a required market study and a survey.

Architect/Developer Rolando Sanchez of Sanchez Planning Development Inc. agreed to work on spec, meaning that he will receive no compensation for his site plans, architectural drawings and other pre-development work until the papers are all signed and closed. His expertise was crucial to submitting successful state and federal grant and loan applications.

The apartments will be built by Marcobay Construction. Southwind Management, which handles USDA funded projects all across the state, will provide on-site property management for the first five years. At the end of the five-year contract, it is anticipated that FCEP will have the capacity to take over long-term management.

Father Jaime Diaz of Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission is the one who established the group of volunteers that ultimately became the FCEP. The Mission is associated with the St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Sebastian, Florida. Started in 1981, it is meant primarily to support the spiritual needs of the Hispanic and migrant worker population in the area. When Father Diaz came to Fellsmere in 1999, he became concerned about meeting his flock's other needs - housing, medical care, food, clothing and education.

As in any such project, there have been many individual, corporate and foundation donors, including Catholic Charities, Harbor Federal Savings Bank and the Treasure Coast CRA Roundtable. Indian River County is putting in the water and sewer lines, as well as providing property tax relief. Volunteers have given thousands of hours.

Over 100 people joined in the groundbreaking celebration, including Pam Gillespie from Congressman Dave Weldon's office, Florida State Senator Mike Haridolpolos, Florida State Representative Ralph Poppel, Indian River County Commissioners Carol Gunn and Fran Adams, former Fellsmere Mayor Joel Tyson, Lauretta Stephens from Florida Non-Profit Housing, Florida Housing Finance Corporation Operations Director Steve Auger, USDA Area Director Greg Caruthers, Father Jaime Diaz and many others. A tasty BBQ was provided by Marsh Landing and La Golondrina.

The banner at the ceremony read, "First a dream, now a reality." For 70 farmworker families, Whispering Pines will indeed be a dream come true. View pictures of the event.


Hope Leet, President
Fellsmere Community Enrichment Program
32 North Broadway, P.O. Box 190
Fellsmere, Florida 32948
(772) 571-0031

Lauretta Stephens
Florida Non-Profit Housing Inc.
Sebring, Florida
(863) 385-2519

Gregory Caruthers
Area Director
USDA Rural Development
750 S. Military Trail, Suite J
West Palm Beach, Florida 33415
(561) 683-2285

Content Archived: September 14, 2011