By Chuck Ballaro
Not even a little mud and rain would keep Jean Devereaux from witnessing this moment.
Devereaux, who, as president of Goodwill Housing since 1991, has been instrumental in building homes for those with handicaps throughout Southwest Florida came out to Atlantic Avenue on Thursday to witness another groundbreaking.
Goodwill Industries held a ceremony Thursday to celebrate the beginning of work on a planned 14-unit structure for persons with disabilities called the Jean Devereaux complex.
Considering all she's done, to name the facility after her was only natural.
"As a way to honor her commitment to building housing in the area, we have named our latest unit after her," said Madison Mitchell, Goodwill's community relations coordinator.
Devereaux said she was humbled by the facility being named after her, but showed her sense of humor before walking to the groundbreaking ceremony and putting the first shovel into the ground.
"I feel great humility because everything I've done in the last 17 years has been a pleasant experience for me," Devereaux said. "This building will carry the Devereaux name, the one my husband, Jack, gave me 67 years ago. It's a beautiful French name, but the truth is, he was Irish."
Devereaux has been the one constant in getting these projects built, said Goodwill CEO Tom Feuria.
"When we talk about putting a face on Goodwill, it's the face of the people we serve and those who make things happen," Feuria said. "Jean Devereaux makes things happen."
The complex will have one- and two-bedroom units, with amenities such as a generator, wider doorways and lower light switches which will allow those with disabilities to live more independently.
"Housing for income sensitive people is always hard to find, and people with disabilities have barriers most don't have to face," Mitchell said. "With Goodwill providing this housing, it helps make them more independent."
The completion of this unit, along with one being built in Clewiston, will give Southwest Florida 16 such housing complexes.
The land was provided by HUD and Goodwill worked with the county to provide the housing, Mitchell said.
The build is expected to be fully rented by October or November, Goodwill Industries COO Rick Evanchyk said, adding he has about 500 people on a waiting list for housing.