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Building foundations in Oregon

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Helena Scheratski (left) and Diane Hubbard cut beams for North Willamette Valley HFH’s Women Build crew.

The biggest thing lacking for Nadya Seledkov and her family’s current housing situation is stability. Without the stability a permanent home affords, the Seledkov family lacks the foundation crucial for living a peaceful life. Today, on the first day of North Willamette Valley Habitat for Humanity’s first-ever Women Build, Nadya finally had the chance to build that very foundation.

I’m delighted to report our contribution to National Women Build Week could not have gone better. We had beautiful weather and the perfect amount of volunteers, whose excellent work even elicited an “impressive” from one of our affiliate’s most experienced construction supervisors.

Stone Soup cartoonist and Habitat supporter Jan Eliot was one of the first volunteers to arrive on the worksite. We were all honored to have her building with us, as she has been a longtime advocate for the Women Build program.

Shortly after her arrival, a few of Nadya’s close friends, some Women Build volunteers, a representative from Lowe’s and Nadya herself arrived at the site. Unfortunately, as they are all too young to work on a Habitat build site, none of Nadya’s children came out to attend—but that didn’t stop them from trying!

Nadya’s youngest daughter, Lena, even called today to ask her mom an interesting question: If she raised $10,000 for her family’s new home, could she come out and work on its construction?

Nadya just smiled.

Even though her immediate family could not work with her today, Nadya was surrounded by a supportive group of friends and women. The crew instantly hit it off and enthusiastically tackled the day’s rather daunting tasks. As it was the first day of construction, they literally had to build the home’s foundation. Although most of this group of perfect strangers had never operated a power tool before today, they were all soon cutting beams, pounding nails, shoveling dirt and laying forms.

By the end of the day, they were fast friends who had built not just one, but several foundations: a foundation for a four-bedroom home, a foundation for budding friendships, a foundation of construction experience, and—most importantly—a foundation for the Seledkov family’s new life.

Evan Stewart is the program coordinator for North Willamette Valley HFH (Ore). Stewart discovered Habitat for Humanity in Louisiana while working with AmeriCorps*NCCC program and fell in love immediately – eventually leading to a job with the North Willamette Valley affiliate.

A ‘beautiful day’ in Kentucky

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A Hardin County HFH volunteer at work.

Hardin County Habitat for Humanity (HCHFH) operates in a rural county of Kentucky. We build three to four houses a year. Our Women Build project was renovating a home for the Rose Holt family.

Rose is a single parent living in Radcliff, Ky. She is a quiet, easygoing lady who earned her sweat-equity hours last year by working on another family’s Habitat house. She has still put time into her own house, though, and worked on site all day today, except for the last two hours – when she left early to help her 17-year-old daughter get ready for prom.

A church group recently removed the old siding from the house, and our Women Build day task was to install the new siding on the house and shed. We had a siding training day at our local Lowe’s on April 25, which was attended by 25 ladies.

Our Women Build day began with prayer. It was a beautiful day in Kentucky and by noon it had reached a sunny 75 degrees. As we were making announcements following our opening prayer, an 83-year-old lady drove up. She said: “I saw the build in the newspaper this morning and I thought I would try it. Am I too old to work?”

Not at all!

She was quickly integrated into the group and worked hard all day.

We had four males among our site supervisors. The women were told that if they saw a man pick up a tool, they were free to gang up on him and put him in his place! (The women had no problems with this advice!)

By noon we had about 40 women, with volunteers from all over the area. We had current Habitat homeowners, veteran helpers and first-timers. One volunteer told me she had always wanted to work with Habitat, but had been intimidated. “This has given me a marvelous entrée to Habitat,” she told me. “After this introduction, I feel confident to go out there and work with the guys!”

“This is my first Habitat adventure,” added a volunteer named Debbie. “It will not be my last. The fellowship is incredible.”

Lunch was served by College Heights Methodist Church. However, we had twice as many women as expected so we sent a scout (Michele from Lowe’s) out for pizza and she came back with donated pizza from Pizza Hut.

“We were hoping for at least 20 women and actually had 43 come out to help,” said Trisha Caudill, our affiliate’s publicity chairman. “I’m excited about the excitement I saw. This was a first experience with Habitat for several of the women and many said they will be back to help.”

At 3 p.m. we still had 25 women working and five refused to leave until they got the last piece of siding on the shed. One of our volunteers, Angela, summed up the experience well: “It’s a beautiful day when this many people come together to build a home for someone they don’t even know.”

This build really warmed my heart, too. Forty-three women; multi-racial; every economic circumstance; a broad spectrum of ages from 18 to 83, all working in harmony just to be good neighbors to a family in need.

What I did not understand going into this is the reluctance some women have about volunteering with Habitat and “working with the guys.” Today, they found that Habitat has a place and a need for them and that they can do the work just a well as men.

Larry Mengel is a retired Army Colonel who served as president of Hardin County HFH (Ky.) for six years and is now the affiliate’s volunteer executive director.

Raising the roof and beating the heat in Arizona

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Women Build volunteers work to install the longest roof trusses ever used on houses built by HFH Tucson.

Twelve women came out to Habitat for Humanity Tucson’s Marana build site today to celebrate National Women Build Week. They were excited about building here since this community north of Tucson is a new adventure for our affiliate. They also knew there would be plenty to do since we were only three weeks removed from the house’s initial wall-raising!

We gathered at 7 a.m. and site supervisor Gwen Hamilton, assisted by construction staff member Ann Jones, welcomed everyone. We all shared how we had gotten involved with Habitat and what the volunteer experience means to us. Those who had participated in past Women Build projects used words like “safe,” “fun” and “a great learning experience.” We heard from future homeowner Roberta Ransom who expressed her appreciation to everyone involved in making her dream come true.

Jimmy Lester from our local Lowe’s store was on hand and did a mini-clinic on the different types of hammers available, their purpose and proper use, the right way to hold a hammer, and how to remove a nail. He gave us some valuable tips and I guarantee that everyone learned something new.

When Gwen explained the task for the day – rolling trusses – there was a bit of apprehension but, after Ann explained exactly how to carry, lift and roll a truss, everyone was ready to tackle the job. Gwen made a point of telling everyone to listen carefully to each other – and that was probably the most important advice we received!

Carrying the trusses and then maneuvering them into place required teamwork. It took all of us to get the job done. It is an elegant process and, when the trusses are in place, the light and shadows play across the concrete slab – we all felt that we had created artwork!

We had to quit right after lunch – the temperature had reached 95 degrees by 11 a.m. and safety is of utmost importance. After hugs all around, we promised to watch KVOA News at 5:30 p.m. (they had come out to film us) and look for the front-page photos in the Marana Weekly (a photographer had stopped by and he was very impressed with the work we had accomplished).

Happy Mother’s Day – and Happy National Women Build Week!

Barbara Brown joined the HFH Tucson (Ariz.) staff in February 2007 after serving 12 years as the senior program officer for the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona.