By Staff Report

As part of the celebration of the United States Department of Agriculture’s 50 Years/50,000 Homes milestone, the National Rural Self-Help Housing Association invited families in self-help housing programs across the nation to participate in an art and essay contest to share their vision of homeownership.  Entries were displayed at the 2015 National Self-Help Housing Conference in San Antonio, Texas in July.

Five-year-old Ruskin resident Mia Baxter was one of 18 artists to have artwork and essays displayed during the conference.  The artwork and essays express the self-help housing experiences and expectations of the families and youth who are part of the program.

As a participant in the local art and essay contest hosted by Florida Home Partnership (FHP), a nonprofit, self-help housing agency, Mia was excited to be recognized for her submission. Earl Pfeiffer, Executive Director of FHP, awarded Mia with a framed picture of her drawing and a $25 McDonald’s gift certificate. He also informed her that her artwork would be displayed during the national conference, and she would receive a $50 award for her submission.

Mia and her mom moved into their new home in June of this year. The rising first grader at Thompson Elementary states that she “likes everything” about her new home in Bayou Pass Village, and particularly likes going to the playground.

Jennifer Rodriguez, Mia’s mom, moved from New York in 2013 in search of “a better life” for herself and her daughter. A single parent and former early childcare teacher, Jennifer currently is employed by Amazon. Her sister, a Hillsborough County resident, informed Jennifer about the homeownership opportunity with FHP. With the help of her sister and nephew, Jennifer was able to meet the minimum 600 hours of sweat equity to build her new home and move in last month.  She exclaims that “This is a great program,” and is excited for Mia’s recognition.

For more information, contact Joey Henderson, Florida Home Partnership Community Development Manager-Marketing/PR at 672-6870 ext.250 or

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