SANFORD, Fla. – After 32 years, Kim Fogle retired from her job with a nationwide company. She left with a 401k and a heart for volunteering to help the less fortunate. Those two things combined to define the next chapter in her life.
Fogle started a nonprofit called Central Florida Home For Good and she’s using her savings to build 10 affordable housing units in Sanford.
“I find it exciting that I can drive by here and say this is where my money went,” Fogle said, as she walked through one of the 850 square feet two-bedroom, one-bath apartments still under construction near downtown Sanford.
The complex is within walking distance of Fort Mellon Park. There is a bus stop next door.
“These will be apartments the average worker can afford,” Fogle said, pointing out the features of the space. “I love the windows.”
Fogle plans to call the complex Sanford Courtyard. The three buildings, covered with a fresh coat of stucco and drywall, are finally coming together after years of hard work.
Fogle said she spent years volunteering at local nonprofits that help the homeless.
“What I kept noticing over and over again, it’s the housing. They’re paying so much of their income where they live that they’re stuck. They can’t get out of the cycle,” Fogle said.
Fogle said it was a conversation with her son and a sermon at church that helped motivate her.
“One night I was home venting to my husband and my son. My son said, ‘Hey mom, you know what you always say to me, you’re not allowed to complain unless you’re willing to be part of the solution.” Fogle laughed.” That same weekend I was at church and my pastor said something very simple but very profound. He said, ‘A lot of you are sitting on the sideline because you can’t solve the whole problem, all you need to do is what you can, where you can, with what you have.”
With that, Fogle said she dug in to see what she could do.
“I had this 401k that I could use for myself. But I also had an opportunity to invest in other people. When I was younger, people invested in me,” Fogle remembered.
It hasn’t been easy. Fogle didn’t have any experience with the building process.
“I can see why a lot of nonprofits have not delved into this. It really is all encompassing. You need to focus on building and only building because it’s complex,” Fogle said.
Fogle said that process was complicated further by supply problems and shortages caused by the pandemic.
“There’s been good days and bad days. When lumber went up 50% that was a bad day,” Fogle said. “Is it hard? Yeah, this was really hard but you know what’s also hard? The lives they live every day. I think they deserve a chance,” Fogle said.
Shannon Young, executive director of the Seminole County Housing Authority, said projects like this are rare.
“I’m impressed, I’m impressed We don’t hear those stories often,” she said.
The Seminole County Housing Authority helps administer funds for the Section 8 voucher program. The program helps subsidize rent for families that qualify.
Young said there’s always a need for more affordable housing in the county and these 10 units will help.
“Our waiting list is closed right now. We opened it up last year for a couple of days and we got over 2,000 applications. It will take us five to six years to go through that waiting list,” Young said. “The need is great and the resources are scarce.”
Fogle said she’s had help. When others heard about the project they stepped in with donations of their own. She got help with a grant and contractors offered their services at cost.
“I don’t want this to be one and done. I want this to be replicable,” Fogle said, confident that there will be more Central Florida Home For Good housing in the future. “I provided the seed money for this but what I can see happening next is the community, including government, nonprofits and private citizens, coming together to do our part.”
Fogle hopes to welcome the first tenants by December. She says rent will be around $925 a month. There is already a waiting list.
“I think there’s more Kim’s out there than we think,” Fogle said. “I just think they don’t know how to get started and I’m going to help them with that.”