Pinellas nonprofit steps in when no one else will

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A St. Petersburg woman and her family had to dump buckets of water from inside their house for nearly a year after Hurricane Irma until a nonprofit stepped up to lend her cash. 

“It was all coming in through here, and I was afraid this was going to come down,” said Kim Zeches. 

Zeches’ house still bears scars from Irma because her roof was badly damaged and caused the ceiling to leak water into her house. She dumped about five buckets a day of water for nearly a year. She tried getting it repaired, but was scammed.

“I’m out between $800 and $1,000 in repairs to the roof that didn’t work,” said Zeches, who works in a school cafeteria at Midtown Academy. “It was hard work earning the money.”

Ann Vanek-Dasovich, regional manager of the nonprofit Solar Energy Loan Fund (SELF), said the organization steps in to help when no banks will provide loans or there are no other financial options.

SELF partnered with the city of St. Petersburg to help women, the elderly, veterans and other families secure low-interest loan for home repairs.

“Although FEMA and other insurance companies responded to the crisis that Irma created, they didn’t fill the void of everybody who needed help,” said Vanek-Dasovich.

She said me the nonprofit specializes in helping working class families who own homes and are financially strapped to do repairs.

“We make sure that the project is done, that it starts on time, that it ends on time, that it’s done to their satisfaction and that it meets code,” said Vanek-Dasovich.

Zeches said she has a loan repayment plan for the roof and part of it is crowd-funded through the nonprofit, using KIVA, a crowdfunded lending program.

“It’s just so much better. It’s a cleaner living situation. The quality of air in the household is better,” said Zeches.

What’s left now is figuring out how soon she can get her ceiling repaired.

SELF mainly helps families in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. If you need help and want to see how you can apply for a lower interest loan, you can find more information at