ORLANDO, Fla. — A property broker in Kissimmee has planned a kickball tournament fundraiser to help save Ms. Theresa DeFairia’s 1940s-era home in Orlando.

Small teams of employees from real estate and similar companies will donate $500 each to compete in the tournament at The Rock Church on October 24.

What You Need To Know

  • The home of Ms. Theresa's 1940s-era home needs an overhaul

  • The City of Orlando had cited it for code violations

  • A Kissimmee property broker is organizing the tournament

  • Teams will meet October 24 at The Rock Church

Volunteers began rallying around 72-year-old Ms. Theresa earlier this year, when the City of Orlando cited her home for multiple code violations. At that time, Ms. Theresa hadn’t been fully honest with her loved ones about her living conditions, which had deteriorated as she struggled to maintain her home on a fixed Social Security income. Ms. Theresa slept outside, allowing her canine “children” full reign of the house. She hadn’t had water or electricity in seven years.



“I never told the family because the family would have simply been worried,” Ms. Theresa said, referring to her vast circle of beloved friends — who quickly sprung into action when they realized she was in danger of losing her home.

With Ms. Theresa’s “daughter” Carolina Escobar leading the charge, a GoFundMe started, and volunteers began clearing out piles of debris from within and outside the home. Donations to that GoFundMe have now surpassed $37,000.

“People are donating thousands of dollars, hundreds of dollars, 5, 10, 20,” Ms. Theresa said. “All of them are such blessed people. I mean, from their hearts.”



The most pressing issue is a new roof, which can’t be installed until some severe structural damage is addressed. Several local roofing companies have offered to donate their services to the cause. But a looming October 20 deadline to complete all necessary work before the City of Orlando condemned the home seemed impossible — until Orlando Commissioner Regina Hill stepped in.

“I just thought it was important not to take away the only thing [Ms. Theresa] owned in life — and that’s her home, the American dream,” Hill said.

Hill, who represents Orlando’s District 5, said it’s crucial to preserve the communities of Parramore and neighboring Callahan, where Ms. Theresa lives.

“That is essential for me, is to retain those that have homeownership in Parramore,” Hill, who grew up in the area said.

Hill was able to halt the condemning process indefinitely while the massive rehabilitation project continues, she said. It remains to be seen whether it will be more cost-effective to restore the home, or to demolish it and build Ms. Theresa a new one, Hill said.

But Ms. Theresa’s vision for the home is clear.

“Tearing it down is not an option,” Ms. Theresa said. The Lord, she said, has told her very clearly that the historic home is to be restored, not demolished.




“What would I tell all of my family, who’s been supporting me through the GoFundMe with their prayers and their donations?” Ms. Theresa said. “They’re supporting me because they believe in miracles, faith. They believe the house can be restored. I tear it down, that makes me a darn liar.”

To get the GoFundMe across the $50,000 goal finish line — and perhaps beyond — Escobar’s cousin Daniel Araque organized the kickball tournament through his company, Fidelity Property Brokerage.

“Each team will donate some money to the GoFundMe that we have, and the winning team would pretty much deliver the proceeds to [Ms. Theresa],” Araque said.

About 12 teams are already registered, Araque said, and they’re looking for up to 20 total. The small, five-person teams will compete at a socially distanced event October 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Sometimes when you donate to a big organization, things kind of dissolve. Here we see the actual cause, we see the problem,” Araque said. “I think being in real estate, and this dealing with primarily real estate and the county, I think it’s a pretty good match.”

Companies who are interested in signing up to compete in the tournament can request to join the Facebook group

Molly Duerig is a Report for America corps member who is covering affordable housing for Spectrum News 13. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.