Over the past year I have visited and worked on several Habitat for Humanity build sites. You can always find good hearted volunteers, interesting characters, good old fashion hard work, and of course about a dozen or so cookies floating around. It is usually easy to find some connection or similar interest with another volunteer and the day is spent building relationships as much as it is spent building a house.
These connections are what make volunteer days memorable and why I was looking forward to volunteering on this summer’s Women Build site. By the end of the day not only had I felt accomplished in helping to set roof trusses and lay roof sheathing (things I had no idea how to do before hand), but I also met 8 new women who, like me, care about creating safe and affordable houses for Twin Cities families.
Women Build sites are unique because all the volunteers and Habitat staff are women. All the labor and leadership for the entire house starting from day one is done completely by women! The first thing I noticed on site was the buzz of efficiency. Like focused worker bees every woman, whether it was her first time or 100th time volunteering with Habitat, scattered throughout the site gathering lumber, nails, hammers and of course, pink hard hats within a few minutes. Soon you could hear the chatter of collaboration, teamwork and friendly laughs.
One Women Build regular volunteer, who has far surpassed her 100th volunteer day, is Cindy Fitzsimons, CJ for short. You immediately see her experience at work. “looks like they are doing some problem solving over there,” she said shortly after I’d met her. “I better go check it out.” Then she bounces around to each volunteer group answering questions and giving guidance to newer volunteers.
CJ is retired and found volunteering as a Women Build regular crew member allows her to get out in her community and be a part of a team. When I asked her what keeps her coming back year after year to Women Build she said with confidence, “Teaching other women new things about home building.”
That is the beauty of Women Build, women from all ages coming together to create change for Twin Cities families while learning new skills in an encouraging and comfortable environment. When there is a need for compassion and rewarding work, women from across the Twin Cities are picking up hammers to help hard-working families in need.
For Rose Schwietz, her motivation for volunteering comes from her dedication to serving her community. Home for the summer, she feels volunteering in her community gives her the opportunity to be connected with her neighbors and experience the life of someone who is living in a different situation. Being just her third time volunteering with Habitat, she has already learned a great deal about housing in the Twin Cities.
Before volunteering, the housing situation, “Was something I didn’t know a lot about or understand,” she said. Now she understands why helping working families with lower incomes buy a house is so important to the success of their children and their financial situation.
Besides understanding the need for housing in Minnesota, Rose has also learned a few things about the home building process. Each volunteer day is different and this was her first time doing framing and exterior work with Habitat. Women Build needs a variety of women with skills and talents to help with all tasks from framing and foundation to painting and landscaping.
There is a lot left to do until the site is complete and a Habitat partner family can move in, and a second home to do later in the summer and fall, so we need more women with strong hands (or at least strong hearts) to finish the work. If you are interested in joining a Women Build team or planning your own volunteer day please consider signing up.
Stay up to date on the Women Build house by checking out the Women Build Facebook page!