Habitat for Humanity Offers Women Opportunities to Build

Sat June 28, 2008 - Midwest Edition
Courtney Sommer -The Examiner

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) With Habitat for Humanity, all women can build.

As part of National Women’s Build Week, women volunteers with Habitat for Humanity spent a recent morning building a house for two Hurricane Katrina survivors.

The event was originally planned during the National Women’s Build Week, but it was rained out and rescheduled.

“This event helps show that women can and have been building,” Executive Director of Truman Heritage Habitat Gina Elkins said.

Elkins has been employed by Habitat for 11 years and started out as a volunteer.

During the women’s week, every event is recognized as being female-only. Many women enjoy volunteering during this week.

“I like being here with the other women,” volunteer Carrie Stull said. “You spend all day with women and you get to talk about everything.”

“I think women like it because it’s women helping other women,” Elkins said.

Oftentimes the family in need is a single mother and her children, and some women relate to their circumstances.

Elkins said that during the women’s week, Habitat sees women of all walks of life coming out to volunteer and better the community.

Lowe’s has become a big part of National Women’s Build Week. The event occurs in 150 Habitat affiliates, and a Lowe’s in each area donates $5,000 to a project. The Lowe’s corporation donates about $750,000 total and sends out employees to help the volunteers each year during women’s week.

“Habitat is good for learning construction skills,” Elkins said. “It demystifies construction and makes it less scary to the women who don’t have confidence.”

Elkins said that by participating in women’s week, women can do work on their own home and have a sense of confidence about their new knowledge.

The house that Habitat is working on here is set to be completed and ready for the family to move into in six weeks. The homes take an average of 16 weeks and 2,000 hours of labor to complete.

The family is a couple from New Orleans that survived Hurricane Katrina. They came to the area to move in with family and ended up becoming involved with Habitat. They decided to build roots here to be close to family and away from the dangerous, hurricane-prone area, Elkins said.

The fact that the family has been through so much has made Stull enjoy the process even more.

“I enjoy the satisfaction of helping a family in need,” Stull said.

Stull enjoys the gratification of doing something for a family that might not happen otherwise.

“It’s a physical challenge, and it’s exhausting,” Stull said, “but it’s a satisfying exhaustion.”

The construction is taking place on Willow Avenue in Independence.

Truman Heritage Habitat has built 45 homes in the community and recently introduced a plan to build 40 more homes in Eastern Jackson County in the next five years.

Elkins said one goal for the new plan is to have a “women’s build house,” which is one built entirely by women.

To be able to build the 40 houses, Habitat will need to see many more volunteers than help now.

“We need to keep promoting this kind of thing to get more people to volunteer,” Elkins said.

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