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Raising a roof for National Women Build Week

Meredith and momMeredith with her mom at the NWBW site in Atlanta

This year was my first time participating in this national event and I had a blast! I was lucky enough to not only build with one, but two affiliates participating in National Women Build Week in Georgia.  

Coincidentally, my first build was landscaping for a home only five minutes down the street from where I grew up. So, it was sentimental for my mother and I to return to our old town and drive past my elementary school and the parking lot where I learned how to ride a bike. 

Working alongside my mother was a huge blessing to me since I finally had the chance to share my love for Habitat in a hands-on experience.  Another blessing was working with Pat Decker, Sue Henderson and Fiona Eastwood from Habitat for Humanity International in Atlanta.

I felt privileged to be a part of their time volunteering and was completely impressed by their work ethic. Those women never took a break and worked hard from beginning to end, getting their hands dirty and shoes caked in mud!

Also, we had volunteers from local Lowe’s stores giving their expert help in gardening and some were doing finishing touches on the electrical parts of the house. We had a productive day planting 100 shrubs and preparing the dirt for sod to be laid down the following day. I am proud to say that even in a small way, I helped a Habitat partner family—a single mother of two—settle into her first home this past Saturday.

My second build was in Albany, Ga., with the Flint River Habitat for Humanity. The day before our build, a group of women from Habitat for Humanity International in Americus bonded while we bedazzled our hardhats. This was a perfect way to get our women excited and energized about taking a special day away from the office.

Our Habitat International women built along with volunteers from the local Lowe’s and news station. We tackled three different houses with several tasks varying in levels of difficulty. My best friend, Mary Ellen Dingley, came from north Georgia to build with me for her first Habitat experience. We decided to go big or go home and attempted the most difficult task of the day: tearing off the old roof and replacing it with a new one.

I may be a bit biased, but the roofers group was by far the most fun construction group, as seen by the Harlem Shake video we recorded. Our girls worked hard and tore off the roof in less than two hours. Even though we were delayed by the slight learning curve, we still made a dent in putting on the new roof. 

Mary EllenMary Ellen Dingley working on a roof in Albany, Ga.

My National Women Build Week was an absolute success this year and I hope no matter where I am next year that I have the opportunity to volunteer again.  Perhaps I can even attempt to convince my 88-year-old grandmother to participate with me next time! 

Soon another week of my life will be dedicated to building. Every Habitat AmeriCorps gets the opportunity to build for a week during the annual Build-a-Thon event. My Build-a-Thon experience will be slightly different from other AmeriCorps because I will be building in Washington D.C. for our first Veteran’s Build on the Mall. We will be framing seven houses—one for each branch on the military and one for National Service. 

Keep your eyes peeled and check out Women Build Facebook and twitter for updates during my Build-a-Thon week!

Then later in June, I will be traveling to Oregon to do a Women Build 101 training with the Newberg Area Habitat for Humanity. All affiliates in the state of Oregon were invited, so if you are near, please consider attending or email me to have your own Women Build 101 training at your affiliate.

Meredith Nelson is the AmeriCorps outreach coordinator for HFHI’s Women Build program, based in Americus, Ga. To schedule Women Build 101 training with Meredith, email mnelson@habitat.org or womenbuild@habitat.org.