CLEARWATER, Fla. — Most people have a bucket list — a list of the places or experiences to check off before checking out. 

What You Need To Know

  • Pamela Lee is the CFO of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties

  • She is preparing to compete in her first Ironman competition, which will also include her first marathon

  • She says the training she has put in reminds her of the hard work Habitat families put in while working toward their first home

Pamela Lee has her list and plans to soon check off two big items on the same day. Complete a marathon, check. Compete in the Ironman, check.

“For me, it is mostly about doing things I never thought were possible,” Lee said.

She’s competed in half-marathons, triathlons and half-Ironman competitions before but said this is different. The Ironman is 140.6 miles of grueling endurance — a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, capped off with a 26.2-mile run. That’s a full marathon.

“Redefining what I once thought was impossible and always breaking that ceiling for myself,” she said.

And Lee said she works hard to help others do the exact same thing.

As the chief financial officer for Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco counties, she helps families break the homeowner ceiling. Lee said she sees herself in a lot of the single parents who are working hard to provide a home for their families.

“I started out a little similar to a lot of our home owners,” she said. “Single mom working two jobs. I helped raise my siblings, so we moved around a lot. I didn’t have that family home.

"To know that we helped one more family, it’s just, I know that’s one more family that isn’t going to have to grow up like I did.”

Her favorite part of her job? The passing of the keys to new owners so they can unlock the front doors of their home for the first time.

“That’s your safe haven; that’s your comfort at the end of a long day,” Lee said. “That’s where you have family holidays, gatherings. There’s so much love there. And it’s yours. And not many people get that.”

She said the people who go through the Habitat process take a series of classes, get financial training and put in sweat equity — actually helping build the home.

"We don’t give away our homes,” she said. “This is a hand up, not a handout. And these homeowners work so hard.”

It’s similar to Lee’s Ironman training. She’s not going to just show up to the competition and expect to compete. She’s put in the hours on the road, on the bike and in the water.

She said she sees the correlation between the work Habitat families put in and her training. 

The families' big payoff for their hard work are the keys to their new homes; Lee’s big payoff will come when she crosses that finish line after a day-long competition.

Regardless of how long it takes to finish, she said she's already won the race.

“I have learned a ton about myself,” she said. “I have learned how to stay calm in times of discomfort. I would say that was the biggest lesson, which I can apply to any situation in my personal life. And i’ve learned I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was.”