Women Build for Habitat

Women Build for Habitat

Women Build for Habitat

By Michelle Charles

Journal Staff Writer

About 30 women spent last Saturday learning about house framing and working on a home Stillwater Habitat for Humanity is building on E. Eighth Ave. for the Purcell-Reed family.

Rep. Lee Denney and Stillwater Habitat for Humanity’s executive director Jodi Taylor were on hand, as were current and former board directors and a number of church groups.

Habitat for Humanity and its national partner, Lowes, sponsor Women Build events to encourage women to develop the skills they need to help build “simple, decent, healthy and affordable homes.”

Lowes supported Stillwater Habitat’s Women Build event with a $5,000 grant in addition to hosting two how-to clinics to prepare the women for the job site.

“We taught them how to hold a hammer and drive a nail,” Stillwater Lowes manager Nathan Lee said. “We built a wall right there in the store and taught them the parts of a house.”

Recruiting and training women to work on an all-female crew isn’t intended to exclude men, according to information provided by Habitat for Humanity.

“Women are often intimidated on a mixed construction site; but in the comfortable environment of a Women Build site, they quickly learn construction skills,” a statement from the organization said.

Expanding its volunteer base by recruiting and training women allows Habitat to build more houses.

Habitat for Humanity is an international, nonprofit, Christian housing ministry that sells homes at no profit to low-income families.

Applications are evaluated based on need, willingness to work in partnership and ability to make house payments.

Habitat uses volunteer labor and donations of materials and cash to keep the average cost of one of its homes at $60,000.

Recipients earn sweat equity in their homes by helping to build them. They pay the rest through an interest free mortgage, with their payments going into a revolving fund Habitat uses to build more houses.

Habitat recruited many of its Women Build participants this year through church groups. Most of them had limited experience.

Shannon Gilchrist, who works for a commercial construction company, served as the build supervisor. She said last year’s Women Build event, Stillwater’s first, was also her first time volunteering with Habitat.

Gilchrist said she saw a difference in the confidence level of the volunteers as the day progressed.

“They pay attention and they try hard,” she said. “At the end when they see walls, they really feel like they accomplished something.”

It was also nice that the volunteers got to meet and work with the family who will live in the home, she said.

“They knew they were building it for a special someone,” she said.

Gilchrist encourages more women to get involved in building with Habitat.

“It’s not something that can’t be taught,” she said. “With framing you can’t mess it up. Well, you can but it can always be fixed.”