The Alan Jay Automotive Network was proud once again to be the title sponsor of this year's VERY successful 

Caladium Festival Car Show in Lake Placid on July 28th.




Highlands Hammers Back - Highlands News-Sun - March 2018

AVON PARK - Josiah Powell, 7 months old, can count himself among the youngest evacuees displaced by Hurricane Irma, but his family got a new home Tuesday.

His parents, Tyrone and Sophia Powell, accepted keys Tuesday from Highlands County Habitat for Humanity for their new home on Thomas Street in Avon Park.

It's a change from the old house they and two of their children shared at the corner of Lakeview Drive and Bayview Street in Sebring - Tyrone Powell said he used to walk over to the lake to fish frequently - but it's got bedrooms for everyone, state-of-the-art energy efficiency and best of all, no trees through the roof.

When Irma hit, the baby was just two weeks old, Tyrone Powell said. They had no choice but to evacuate, to in-laws in Wisconsin.

He returned in the rain, thinking he'd have a little debris.

He walked into the house to rain pouring in from the roof.

Since then, the family has been in hotels, including up to a couple of nights ago.

After Hurricane Irma, the Highlands County Habitat for Humanity affiliate started a program called "Highlands Hammers Back," to repair and/or rebuild homes damaged by Irma, said Sarah Creekmore, executive director of Highlands Habitat.

Ron DeGenaro, board chair and pastor of St. John United Methodist Church in Sebring, said Habitat for Humanity is committed to eliminating substandard housing.

"Hurricane Irma changed the game in our community. It manufactured, if you will, more substandard housing," DeGenaro said.

That's why Highlands Hammers Back was initiated, he said: To make sure hurricanes never do the same damage to homes Habitat workers have touched.

Jill Cleveland, with Habitat for Humanity International, said Highlands is one of five affiliates doing hurricane rebuild work in their areas. Others include Marathon Key, Key West, Collier County (Naples), Hendry County and Lee County.

Habitat also provides gap funding for those having trouble paying for roof repairs in the wake of the storm and who are willing to upgrade to metal, Cleveland said.

Bishop Tyrone Powell - also called "Pastor Hallelujah" - serves as youth and adult choir director at Greater Macedonia Church in Bowling Green. Sophia plays keyboard for the Greater Macedonia Church Choir, which lifted voices heavenward, singing "Oh Give Thanks" and "You Deserve It."

The house was blessed not only by DeGenaro, but also Pastor Emmanuel Reed of Greater Macedonia Church, Apostle Erik Maiden of Now Faith Ministries International and by Pastor Hallelujah, Tyrone Powell.

Blair Pakowski, Habitat development and communications manager, said Highlands Habitat hopes to build 40 such hurricane homes in the next four years, 10 per year. The Powells' three-bedroom, twobath home is one of four started already, and took four months to complete.

Creekmore said that was thanks to sponsorship by Alan Jay Automotive Network and in-kind donations from several companies, including Gramática SIPS International, a Tampabased structural insulated panel company owned by Martín Gramática, former NFL placekicker. Tuesday at the ceremony, Gramática said his coach at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tony Dungy, taught his players to give back.

He still does in other ways. Gramática said his staff learns regularly how to improve their panels by volunteering at Habitat build sites.

For his part, Alan Jay Wildstein said this was the 19th home his company has sponsored.

"We want to do so much more," Wildstein said.

Creekmore also thanked volunteers from Habitat's RV Care-A-Vanners program - people who travel all over the country in their RVs to work on Habitat homes. Carolyn and Martin Kleiner, members of the program, presented the Powells with their new house keys, all while helping hold Josiah, who napped through much of the event.

The only sadness they had Tuesday was sickness. Josiah's big sister, 2-yearold Alicia Love Powell, had a stomach bug, and it was her birthday.

Normally, Tyrone Powell said, Alicia dotes on her brother: "Her baby." Instead, she spent most of the ceremony weary in the arms of her big sister, 25-year-old Tyisha Powell, one of the Powells' three other grown children.

Tyisha Powell led the song, "Oh Give Thanks," with Alicia's head on her shoulder.

Sophia hoped to get Alicia to eat some of the food prepared for the occasion by Tarniz and Trené Williams, the Powells' soon-to-be back-door neighbors. The Williams will soon move into another Habitat for Humanity home, though not one of the hurricane homes, on Winthrop Street in Avon Park.