May 17, 2013
From The Orlando Advocate
Former Tennessee Freshman All-American basketball player and current Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris took part in a work day for the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando Thursday.
Harris was joined Thursday by teammate Jameer Nelson, Community Ambassador Bo Outlaw and 20 Magic employees. The Magic have sponsored five of the 58 homes in the Stag Horn Villas section of Orlando. The $8 million project started more than four years ago, and when the Magic's work is complete all the families will be in the three-bedroom, 1 ½-bath homes that feature 1,150 square feet and energy star-rated features.
While meeting with a reporter from The Orlando Advocate following Thursday's build project, Harris said he is finally starting to feel at home in Central Florida. In addition to being a big hit on the court for the Magic - he averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 27 games in Orlando after being acquired in a Feb. 21 trade with the Milwaukee Bucks - he made it a point to volunteer for as much community work as possible.
He got in a two-hour workout at the team's headquarters on Thursday morning and then headed over to the Habitat for Humanity event for some painting of porch columns and doorways.
"This makes you feel great, especially what we're doing as an organization with the Orlando Magic by giving back to families in need," Harris said. "It makes you appreciate things that you have in your life a lot more. I just love helping out people anyway that I can. I've always been the type to try and find ways to help people who are in need and do what I can also to help the organization. A lot of times it can just bring a smile to someone's face when an NBA athlete comes and helps out."
Director of community outreach for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando Jennifer Gallagher said the Magic should be lauded for stepping up and sponsoring and helping do the work on the final five homes in the complex.
"When we started this community, some of the things we thought about were not only the aesthetics of the home, but also making them energy efficient,'' Gallagher said. "We wanted to make these homes sustainable long-term for the homeowners. Our goal is decent, affordable housing and we wanted it to be something that people are proud of. And this can be a showcase for what Habitat for Humanity really stands for."
Lynn Ivanek, the director of development for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando, said that for families to qualify for ownership of the homes they have to meet three criteria: They have to show a need for the home with their current living arrangements; they must be willing to put in the "sweat equity" on the construction, with single parents required to perform 300 hours of service and two-parent families putting in 500 hours; and they have to show that they have a means with which to pay mortgages that usually range from $550 to $700 a month.
"This sort of thing really shows that the Magic are engaged in their community and they get involved in a variety of ways," Gallagher said. "They care about the people who live in this community and support them. The city supports their franchise, and then they return that by supporting the community as well. It's just great to see (Magic representatives) come out and give their time when there is no reward for them besides the feeling of just giving back."
Harris, 20, knows this is a big summer for many of the Magic's young players, and he didn't want to waste any time trying to improve his skills.
"I did a week off and then it was back to starting up workouts for me," Harris said. "I just don't really like to take too much time off in the off-season because I get bored. So I got it going again pretty quick because I still feel like I need to grow as a player and make more strides."
Back in Knoxville, Tenn., where Harris spent his lone collegiate season (2010-11), the Volunteers' basketball program also takes pride in its relationship with the local Habitat for Humanity organization.
The Tennessee basketball team has taken part in Habitat for Humanity build projects each of the last two seasons, and the Vols are slated to assist with another build project this summer.