Habitat for Humanity Greater Orlando & Osceola County’s Board of Directors are committed to ensuring that all of our neighbors in Central Florida have a safe, affordable place to call home. This dedicated team provides direction, oversight, and more to Habitat Orlando & Osceola’s staff.
Each month, we’ll introduce you to a different member of this hardworking team. This month, we’d like you to get to know a bit more about Habitat Orlando & Osceola Board Member Chevalier Lovett, the Sr. Vice President & Managing Director of Organize Florida.
Tell us about yourself.
Well, this is always the toughest thing to answer! I’m a fairly boring person that has a lot of complexities. The short(ish) answer is that I was born and raised in Winter Park, FL. I belong to a squad that’s called the “Three Musketeers” which is my mother and my older sister. For the first half of my childhood and adolescence, I lived in a community called “The Meadows.” It’s through the Winter Park Housing Authority for very low-income households. It was probably one of the best experiences of my life, as I have so many joyous memories and learned much of my life’s lessons there. The second part of my life before adulthood was in Hannibal Square, where my family unit of three moved into our first owned home that was through Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park & Maitland. So, I get to gleefully boast that I literally had a hand in building my own home. I am a proud graduate of Winter Park High School (Go, Wildcats!) – and aside from college, I have always called Florida home. I’ve had the opportunity to hold some amazing positions throughout my career, and it’s always been in some sort of community work. From teaching, to fitness, to being an additional support within schools, to been an advocate and marching in the streets alongside marginalized groups. Another unique thing I engage in is classical music as an opera singer, pianist and conductor. It’s most likely the reason I’m known as the “Operatic Activist.” I’m passionate about issues that affect marginalized communities, particularly within the LGBTQ+, youth, education and low-income communities. I’m a movement leader and currently serve as the Sr. Vice President & Managing Director of Organize Florida. My mission is to be a leading activist in the Peace Movement. I’m a HUGE family person, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than spending time with them, whether it be through travel, hiking, weekly Sunday family dinner, running 5K’s, or just chilling at the beach or cabin. As vocal as I am not just as a performer, however, also as a community advocate – It shocks most folks to learn that I’m an extreme introvert, which my significant other of 11 years is still navigating through! My pronouns are he/him or they/them.
Why did you first become involved with Habitat Orlando & Osceola? I had the pleasure of growing up in a Habitat Home myself. So naturally, I felt I would also be plugged into the mission somehow throughout my lifetime. While going through a program at Rollins College, I met the AMAZING now CEO & President, Catherine McManus. We truly bonded through that program, which was about how to be intentional leaders. Fast forward a few years and I met the legend Latria Graham-Leak through another unrelated leadership program, Leadership Winter Park. Latria was finishing her term as the Chair on the Board of Directors and invited me to pursue a board position. The mission of Habitat, mixed with my own personal journey, mixed with the vibrancy of Latria and mixed with the astounding leadership of Catherine made this decision a no-brainer.
What drove you to commit to serving on the board? Oops, I think I may have answered that in the above question. However, I truly believe that affordable housing plays a role in the equitable sustainability practices that our communities so desperately need. Being on the board of one of the largest (if not the largest) organizations that also believes in this effort, gives a path to that action.
What about Habitat Orlando & Osceola has kept you involved with us? For me, it really is the mission, however beyond that, it’s the intent. Many organizations always want to “do the right thing”, however, that’s not always the easiest thing to do. Habitat Orlando & Osceola always asks the questions, “How can we do better? What are we missing?” Then action plans and takes the necessary steps to address that. Also, Central Florida has one of the largest affordable housing opportunities and room for improvement, especially within communities of color. Seeing as Central Florida is a melting pot, I believe this organization does its best to address that need.
How would you characterize the board’s role at Habitat Orlando & Osceola? First and foremost, I believe my role is to show up as a representative for our community. To ensure that the organization remains true to its vision through its mission. Being on the board is not about reading through reports, voting on changes and micro-managing the leaders of the organization. Being on the board is about reflecting the community needs through strategy and intentional conversations. This may even mean asking crucial questions that may be tough – my role is to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m often the “trouble maker” in board meetings, because I feel that my role is to think outside the box to what no one else may be thinking or saying, BECAUSE I myself was a directly impacted person through Habitat’s Mission. It’s the reason I bought a shirt that says, “Good Trouble.” Lastly, my role is to support the leaders and staff of the organization to make their jobs easier, as they’re on the frontlines getting the real work done. And that may even mean getting in the trenches and doing the work alongside them.
As a board member, what is your vision for Habitat Orlando & Osceola? I would like for Habitat Orlando & Osceola to be the leader and model for what an organization of its kind can be like. Habitat is a very well-known brand, however, there are so many within the region and country. Habitat Orlando & Osceola should be the leaders in addressing key issues that are affecting our communities in terms of living and taking the necessary action to alleviate these issues. Housing is a necessity. No one should ever have to worry about a roof over their head and should be able to afford their own home. So I’d like to push Habitat Orlando & Osceola to be the pioneers in our country on how this can be achieved, while ensuring a lens of equity is the driving force.
What have you learned from our future homeowners? So far, I have not had the opportunity to directly engage with this specific organizations homeowners. However, my mother is a Habitat homeowner, and one thing that I learned through her is that resilience is one of the most beautiful gifts we can give ourselves and our community. I was taught the lesson that I should never settle and give up. I’m looking forward to learning more about the homeowners that we serve and learning through their experiences and collective journeys.
How has your personal life or professional experience helped you as a board member? I know y’all must think I’m a broken record, however, I am a productive of a Habitat home. I know what is entailed from start to finish when it comes to getting into and sustaining a home. I’ve also always been a community advocate. This means I know how to speak for what is needed and what is right, and I’m able to find or at the very least think through the resources that will be needed to achieve the goal. I still have much to learn and the housing market and needs change on a daily basis, however, with the positions I’ve held in the few organizations I have worked with, my experience helps me to show up authentically and with intention.
What would you say to organizations that are considering donating, volunteering, or partnering with Habitat Orlando & Osceola? I would first ask people to imagine not being able to have a roof over their head. And then I’d ask them to imagine that while having children and a family. How does that feel just contemplating those two thoughts? Most of us come from a place of privilege without us even knowing and we never give a second thought to those questions, yet there are those around us that have this constant burden on a daily basis. Giving to this organization is a hand up, not a hand out. We’re lifting others to be their best selves, because honestly, life is stressful enough. The two most important resources people can give is their money and time, so why not contribute one or both to building a better community?
Is there anything else that you would like to include about yourself or your work with Habitat? I am always humbled to be in a position of service. I’d like to think that my leadership philosophy is that of Servant Leadership and to be trusted in any position of influence I take seriously. The mission of Habitat literally changed my life and I would not be where I am in my life currently if it were not for it. So my promise and dedication is to pay it forward and ensure there’s a continuation of opportunities for others.
You can help more local families experience the peace and freedom of owning an affordable home. When you donate to Habitat Orlando & Osceola, every dollar helps us build homes and work toward a world where everyone has a safe and affordable place to live. You can make bring hope home through homeownership; please give today.