WEST PALM BEACH — Brion Lawler’s nerves finally hit a fever pitch as he stood 19 stories above West Palm Beach with his back to the Intracoastal Waterway and the ocean.
He was strapped into his harness and began to walk, step by step, up the side of the pink Phillips Point building overlooking downtown.
Then the adrenaline kicked in. After the first few steps, Lawler pushed away from the stone facade of the building and soared into the air. He got the hang of it and was down to the ground in about 15 minutes.
Lawler and about 50 other people abseiled down the building on Saturday as part of a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County, which builds homes and sells them to families struggling with housing costs using interest-free loans. The organization has built 256 homes in 30 years in the county.
“I’m still shaking,” Wellington’s financial adviser said after landing. “It wasn’t as bad mentally as I thought it would be. Once you step off the edge, you kind of step into the moment. The view is epic. It’s amazing.”
Three pairs of donors were lucky enough to go “overboard” early Saturday before high winds and rain forced volunteers, cheerleaders and encores into the parking lot of the building around 9:45 a.m.
Lawler, who is new to Habitat’s board, raised $1,250 to secure his spot.
“This mission is so essential to our community,” he said. “It’s so important that we build from scratch and help keep families safe.”
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Habitat Home pays half the monthly rent in Palm Beach County
Habitat for Humanity builds between 10 and 12 homes a year in Palm Beach County. Families who partner with the organization and volunteer at least 400 hours can then purchase the homes using a 30-year interest-free loan.
Peter Gates, CEO of the organization, said mortgage payments for Habitat homes were about half of what most families in Palm Beach County would pay for rent.
In August, the average monthly rate for a two-bedroom apartment in West Palm Beach was $2,165, the Palm Beach Post reported.
Gates said Habitat found that 39% of families in Palm Beach County spent more than a third of their income on housing. Housing instability, often marked by frequent moves, threats of foreclosure or conditions of insecurity, complicates the establishment of families, the academic success of children and the project of buying a home for parents.
This creates “desperation for far too many families,” Gates said.
The abseiling event is Habitat’s main fundraising campaign for the year. To be eligible for abseiling, donors must raise at least $1,000. The organization’s website says the first 100 people to achieve this goal would be chosen to go “overboard”.
“We equate that to what the owners we serve have to do. They have to take a chance. They have to step out of their comfort zone and do something that’s going to be life-changing but also scary,” Gates said. .
Annabelle Thompson and her husband, Ben, rappel together as their 7-year-old daughter, Arabella, and 6-year-old son, Bryson, look on from the landing zone.
“Getting up there is more nerve-wracking. You sit there with your back to the world and you know you have to get down. My stomach churned a few times and then I felt good. I was really excited to be here.” said Annabelle Thompson.
The Jupiter couple became involved with Habitat for Humanity after going to an event and hearing from a woman who had purchased a Habitat home. Annabelle Thompson said she was moved by the family’s joy and pride of ownership.
“There’s nothing quite like knowing you can help someone who wants it and is willing to work hard to get it, but just needs a little help,” Thompson said. .
Katherine Kokal is an education reporter at the Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at [email protected]. Help support our work, subscribe today!