Last October, OnMilwaukee, Steinhafels and ACTS Housing partnered up to offer a contest that invited people to take a photo of what "home" meant to them and put it on Instagram with the hashtag #milwaukeemeanshome.
Steinhafels has been a longtime supporter and partner of ACTS Housing and, through the contest, gave OnMilwaukee the opportunity to benefit both ACTS recipients and OnMilwaukee readers.
Every month for three months, OnMilwaukee randomly chose one person to win a $500 Steinhafels gift card. Here are the winners:
But there was another side to the contest: three people who purchased homes through ACTS won $500 gift cards, too.
ACTS reaches out to families who have barriers that prevent them from becoming homeowners, including low income, poor credit scores, language barriers and more. The group provides financial and credit counseling, real estate brokerage services and home rehab counseling.
Ondina Andino, Jackie Williams and Esperanza Camarillo, all of whom recently purchased homes in the central city, were the winners through ACTS. The homeowners were nominated by ACTS team members who are currently purchasing or rehabbing foreclosed properties. More than a dozen people were nominated and three were randomly chosen.
"ACTS families are purchasing and renovating homes on a very tight budget," says ACTS' Rebecca Stoner. "A $500 gift card goes a long way to help a family's house feel more like home and alleviate a bit of the financial burden of a rehab project."
Andino says she was very surprised when she received the call that she had won the contest.
"I told my husband, ‘this is a call you never get,’" says Andino. "I couldn’t believe it. I asked, ‘I won for real?’"
Andino purchased a foreclosed home that had been vandalized multiple times on 20th and Highland Boulevard in the Avenues West neighborhood. ACTS helped her with the home buying process every step of the way.
"They helped me with the whole process, from looking at houses to applying for grants to finding contractors," says Andino.
She and her husband own a small contracting business called Sunny Home Improvement and are able to renovate much of the property themselves. However, they are looking for help with electric, heating and plumbing. The couple, along with their two teenaged children, plan to move into the house in March.
"We are very excited," says Andino.
Williams had a similar sentiment about winning the contest and will close at the end of the month on a home in Milwaukee's Merrill Park Neighborhood. With a family of five, furnishing her home will be a challenge and $500 will definitely help with the process.
"I was thrilled to hear about winning the contest," says Williams. "I’ve seen the Steinhafels commercials on TV and they have some really nice things."
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.