FORT LAUDERDALE -- With ceremonial gold-painted shovels in hand, the Florida Panthers and Moss Construction participated in a special ground-breaking ceremony in downtown Fort Lauderdale on March 21 at the site of one of eight future homes they'll help build.
The Panthers and Moss each donated $100,000 towards the project, which is being carried out through H.O.M.E.S Inc, a local non-profit that works to provide quality community and economic development programs to lower-income, at-risk, disadvantaged Broward County residents.
"Obviously, money is important and people need funds to make these things happen, and our ownership is very proud to do that, but I think it's even more important to physically be here with folks like Moss Construction and H.O.M.E.S. Inc.," Panthers President & CEO Matthew Caldwell said.
"It's great to work with these wonderful people, to see how dedicated they are and how genuine and how authentic they are and how excited they are to build homes here. That's what really makes the difference and makes things happen. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don't have the people on the ground making it happen nothing's going to get done."
Founded in 1998, H.O.M.E.S. Inc., aims to provide homeownership opportunities to low-to-moderate income working families in a difficult South Florida real estate market that currently has little to offer in terms of affordable price ranges.
In addition to connecting families with quality-built homes, the organization also offers these buyers eight hours of HUD certified homebuyer education, free financial counseling, access to existing neighborhood groups and up to $40,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance.
In short, the mission of H.O.M.E.S. Inc. comes down to one thing - community revitalization.
"I'm getting more excited as each day goes by," said Linda Taylor, the interim CEO of H.O.M.E.S. Inc. "It does seem overwhelming when there's a lot of poverty and there's slum and there's blight, because you know you can't do it by yourself.
"But when you look around on day like today and see so many people come out to support and show they're willing to put their energy into helping you make the highest risk and the highest poverty area of Broward County a safer, decent place, it's pretty motivating."
This event marked the second time that the Panthers and Moss teamed up to help H.O.M.E.S. Inc., as the organization was also awarded $25,000 earlier this season as part of the Panthers Community Champions Grant program, which is presented by Moss.
In the second year of its existence, the Community Champions Grant program, with the help of Moss & Associates, LLC and the Moss Foundation, has committed $5 million over five years to charitable organizations throughout South Florida.
"We're thrilled about being exclusive partners with the Panthers," said Chad Moss, the Executive Vice President of Moss & Associates. "The Viola Family and Matt Caldwell are tremendous friends. They really do what they say they're going to do with the community. They live, breathe and walk that. We love that. The synergy between our two foundations has been very dynamic. It's amazing how many things we like doing together to help out the community."
As part of their new #OneTerritory campaign, the Panthers have made a strong commitment to uniting all of South Florida behind the organization's desire for success both on and off the ice.
But when looking at that territory, which consists of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties, it's no secret that nearby Fort Lauderdale holds a special place in the team's heart.
If you're looking to improve the community, what better place to start than your own backyard?
"We talk a lot of about #OneTerritory and us uniting, but maybe the headquarters of that territory is Fort Lauderdale," Caldwell said. "It's right in our backyard. It's the heart of Broward County… to be able to be right here in the heart of the county is awesome. Whatever we can do revitalize and get people affordable homes, we'll be there for them."