The American Dream was just a fairy tale to Pethrona Sims.
Every day, she and her four children would come home to their apartment in the heart of Liberty City and come face-to-face with shootings, gang violence and sometimes death.
“I didn’t want my boys to grow up in that area where they weren’t able to go outside and just — play,” Sims said.
At the time, Sims had three sons and a daughter to care for. Buying a home on the fair market wasn’t an option for her. She was hopeful, but stuck.
“I just wanted more of a safe haven for my kids,” Sims said.
In 2007, with the help of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami and Bank of America, Sims got her shot at the American Dream.
The two organizations helped transform the James E. Scott and Carver homes, a long-standing public housing project in Liberty City, into Northpark at Scott Carver.
“My former aunt lived in the Scott and I was on her lease,” Sims said. “Since my aunt had first priority to move into the new apartments, I was able to move with my children.”
Sims upgraded to a new home with three bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms, and paying roughly $1,072 for everything — mortgage included.
She has also had an addition to her family: a month-old boy.
“I would like to thank Bank of America for helping Habitat to do things like this,” Sims said. “This is excellent for me and my family.”
Since 2004, Bank of America has supported organizations like Habitat for Humanity through its Neighborhood Builders program, which gives a $200,000 grant, over a two-year period, and leadership development to nonprofits.
“The program has allowed us to help nonprofits create greater impact in pressing community needs by providing tools and resources, like strategic plans, succession planning, and enhanced funding opportunities,” said Maria Alonso, senior vice president and Miami market manager.
In November, two organizations were honored at the Adrienne Arsht Center as the 2016 Neighborhood Builders recipients: Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami and The Overtown Youth Center.
During the ceremony, both organizations received the first installment of their grant. Now, the groups’ executive directors are gearing up for leadership training which runs February through October 2017.
“OYC and Habitat stood out among their peers in a few ways, but high among them was the role that each play in serving our community’s most vulnerable residents in our poorest neighborhoods in Miami-Dade,” Alonso said.
For the youth center, students like Telkevia Mackey, 17, will continue to have a safe place to go that offers education-enrichment programs.
“OYC has given me assistance with my homework and has motivated me to do my best, even when I feel like doing otherwise,” Telkevia said.
Through the program, she toured colleges both in- and out-of-state, attended SAT and ACT preparation workshops, and has started researching colleges with the help of Mary Wallace, a career development coordinator.
“I have been looking at schools that are accredited in physical therapy, like University of Florida, University of Central Florida, Emory University, Duke University, and the University of Southern California,” Telkevia said.