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A Brush with Kindness


Indian River Habitat’s National Women Build Week volunteers.

National Women Build Week: Vero Beach, Florida

To kick off National Women Build Week, the Indian River Habitat for Humanity affiliate decided to use our women volunteers on A Brush with Kindness project, Habitat’s exterior home-repair program. Team members, steaming Dunkin’ Donuts cups in hand, begin to arrive around 7 a.m. at the jobsite, a house in Vero Beach’s Grace Pines neighborhood.

The home belongs to Brenda Canady. After six years, her “Pepto Bismol House,”—as we called it—definitely needed some exterior touch-ups and a new coat of paint. Breda chose a softer cotton candy shade—really yummy looking. With supplies provided by our wonderful partner, Lowe’s, plus plenty of great Valspar paint, we were all set.

Our Women Build gals, all decked out in red T-shirts, were a diverse group, coming from many occupations and walks of life, joined as sisters for the Habitat mission. Today the team includes two guys: Matt, husband of Women Build Peggy Benton, and Will Porter, our AmeriCorps jobsite overseer. We’re calling them “Mattie” and “Wilma.” Nobody can say we’re not equal opportunity.

Also joining us were two Lowes employees—Donna Blais, and Ilse Way, both New Jersey girls. We learned that when people from Jersey meet, they don’t ask “What town are you from?” They ask, “What exit?” Two other Habitat partner family members, Erica Housing and Diane Brannon, volunteered as well, fulfilling their sweat equity hours toward building their own homes with Habitat.

Soon we began to see how different—and beautiful—Brenda’s new color was looking. “I was worried for a minute,” Brenda admitted, “but it really looks nice!” Nearby, on the grass is a small cage filled with several hens and a rooster, which our homeowner is “chicken-sitting” for a friend. They clustered together, intently watching our efforts. It was a fun morning, full of sharing and pink paint, and we accomplished a lot.

All the while we were working, Brenda’s little granddaughter, Daysia, sat on a chair and watched us paint. When someone said the paint color looks like cotton candy, she perked up, and Brenda quickly told her, “No, sweetie, it’s not real cotton candy.” Daysia happily settled for a cookie and wandered off to bounce her ball in the yard.

Seasoned Women Build member Barbara Borgia admitted she wasn’t sure what to expect way back when she first joined Women Build. “I was there,” Barbara said, “from the passing of the first hammer to the wall raising to the final dedication, and what a privilege it was for me to be working side by side with the homeowners, to see them complete their sweat equity hours and then the joy and excitement as they watch their home take shape.

“There is,” she says with certainty, “no greater joy than to help our neighbors and be able to volunteer for a blessed and caring Habitat family.”


Women Build volunteers added a new coat of paint to Brenda Canady’s home.

Peggy Benton is another well-traveled Habitat builder. She just got back from a Global Village Women Build in India. She says the utterly different way women are regarded in India is a real eye-opener. That Women Build crew had gals from all over the globe, working alongside Indian partner families.

“It was wonderful,” Peggy said. “We worked on 15 different houses in different stages of completion. And my sister got to appear on an Indian TV special on Habitat.”

As our Florida team continues to work, Brenda’s excitement grows. Now that she sees what a difference it’s making, she likes it more and more. As the hours pass, pink splatters begin to enhance most everyone’s ensembles. But we’re cool with that, and we all agree there’s something so fulfilling about seeing the results of our efforts—like Barbara was saying, not only in the finished work itself, but also in the faces of the homeowners.

Sam Baita is the Public Relations coordinator for Indian River Habitat for Humanity in Vero Beach, Florida. The affiliate’s Women Build crew also will work two more days at different house sites during National Women Build Week. Learn more about Indian River Habitat’s work at