Jay Traverso

Image: Chris Lake

When Jay Traverso moved to Lakewood Ranch from the Washington, D.C., area, he knew he would be shifting gears. “I always tell people, when you’re getting ready to retire, have a plan,” he says. “If you just stay home and watch TV all day, you will die. Find a passion and stay involved in your community.”

For Traverso, that passion is Habitat for Humanity. He and his wife Mary Beth had been involved with the construction of The Fishing School in D.C., an afterschool safe place in an underserved neighborhood. Traverso wanted to continue to build spaces for those in need in Sarasota. “You get so lucky, there comes a time where you need to give back,” he says.

Traverso is on job sites four days a week and just celebrated his five-year anniversary. He’s also an organizer. Two years ago, Habitat received a donation to purchase land in Sarasota County to build a community with 40 houses. Hammock Place will have homes with three to four bedrooms and two-car garages and will be sold with zero-percent interest mortgages. Traverso rallied 44 of his neighbors to help build two of the homes with support from developer Stock Homes. So far, Traverso and his neighbors have clocked in 1,800 hours. The first residents moved in this summer. “There’s something about seeing your neighbors put on their dirty old clothes and go build a house. It’s the best form of community building,” he says.

To qualify for a Habitat home, owners must have a full-time job and be able to afford the mortgage. Traverso notes, “These folks are doing all the right things, they just need a helping hand.” 

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