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Strength in numbers: three homes, three teams, one day


Danine Brown greets National Women Build Week volunteers. The house behind her will soon become home for her and her three children.

National Women Build Week: Portland, Maine

As a staff member with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland for the past eight years, I have worked in nearly every area of organizational life, from raising funds to coordinating volunteers. Although my initial involvement began during a springtime afternoon spent putting on roof shingles more than a decade ago, much of my time now is spent at a desk administering the behind-the-scenes “construction” of our affiliate.

Our National Women Build Week event today was one of the rare occasions I was able to put my keyboard aside and pick up a hammer again. Even after all these years, a feeling of nervous excitement came over me as I drove to the worksite this morning, something that is usually experienced by our first-time volunteers.

I arrived on the build site at 8 a.m. to greet our volunteer manager extraordinaire, Kate, and help her set up for the day. As the sun continued to rise behind the three steel-frame houses we would be working on that day, volunteers trickled in a few at time, and before I knew it the site was buzzing with nearly 50 women. Many women wore tool belts—some old, some new, some borrowed and I think at least one of them was blue.


The day’s work is finished. A group shot of volunteers in Portland, Maine, in front of Danine Brown’s future home.

After a brief welcome and orientation to the site, we divided ourselves into three groups of 15 workers. Each group gravitated towards one of the homes and work began. Siding was our task for the day. Throughout the morning and into the late afternoon we measured, cut and hammered—and row by row the siding went up the front of each of the houses. One of the women working was Danine Brown the head of our partner family who will be moving into this house. A single mother of three, Brown worked alongside us all day.

The secret to a successful Women Build Day? Women don’t make mistakes; we just create new opportunities for learning. And today featured a lot of learning and laughter. Today, we all had a chance to be “homemakers” —making home possible for someone else.

And at the end of the day, when our work was done, we put down our hammers and were able to go home to our families—which is really what this is all about, isn’t it?

Amy E. Dowler is the associate executive director and director of family services at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland (Maine). She has have been engaged with Habitat for Humanity for twelve years, first as a college student volunteer and for the past eight years as a staff member at the Portland affiliate.

For more information on Habitat of Greater Portland, visit