Female crews provide the labor in Houston County Habitat for Humanity projects

Sun News correspondentMarch 20, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Thirty Houston County Habitat for Humanity volunteers swung hammers, installed windows, worked in rafters and completed other construction tasks during the weekend.

That’s not unusual for Habitat crews.

What was unusual was that all the crews working Friday and Saturday were women. They were part of Habitat’s Women Build program, an effort to involve more women in building Habitat homes.

“It’s a great group of ladies,” said Staci Bradley, Habitat’s local board president and a C-17 technical order manager at Robins Air Force Base. “We had 20 on Friday and 10 Saturday. All of us are unskilled laborers who are learning new things each day. Women Build is helping us to recruit, educate and inspire women to build and advocate for simple, decent and affordable houses for people in our community.”

Ureena Hoskins said there are about 50 women involved in Women Build so far this year.

Hoskins is Houston County Habitat’s 2013 Women Build chairwoman and owner of Smile Diagnostic Dental Lab. She said Women Build efforts will continue throughout the year but will be highlighted May 4-12 during Habitat’s National Women Build Week.

“Lowe’s is the underwriter of Habitat’s Women Build program and is awarding more than $1.3 million to 275 Habitat affiliates across the United States during National Women Build Week,” she said. “Approximately 10,000 female volunteers are expected to build at Habitat for Humanity construction sites nationally during May. We’ll be among them. It’s a great way for women to come together as a team to help their neighbors and pick up new skills. We’re here ready to learn and to build.”

Though it was a Women Build project, there were a few men on site, including Reggie James and his aides. James is Habitat’s construction supervisor who oversees Houston County Habitat builds.

“It’s been enjoyable and a lot of fun,” James said. “Some of the women are already skilled, and everybody has been ready to learn new things. They’ve accomplished all the goals we’ve set and done an outstanding job on all the work. They’re running ahead of schedule.”

James admitted before a group of women volunteers Saturday that he had been a little skeptical when he first heard the idea of all-women builds.

“I really shot myself in the foot on that,” he said. “They’ve all come to the plate and really performed well. In fact, they’re a lot more receptive than men tend to be about learning new things and asking for advice. As men, we usually think we can do it even when we’re wrong. It’s been a lot of fun working with the ladies.”

On-site learning wasn’t all the learning happening Saturday. Home Depot also conducted a Women Build training session. Hope Hicks, program services coordinator for Habitat, was there and said about eight Women Build participants took a Painting 101 class. She said next week there will be a flooring class.

The weekend’s work centered on a home being built on Orchard Way. The house is being constructed primarily, but not completely, by Women Build teams along with the home’s owner-to-be. In May, Hoskins said a new home will be started on Greenway Drive during National Women Build Week.

Hoskins said this is the first year for Women Build in Houston County, though the program already has been under way nationally. She said it started locally in January with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at LongHorn Steakhouse. Crews have been doing work each month.

But Bradley said the effort hasn’t been just work.

“We’ve had a lot of good laughs together,” she said. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously even though we’re working hard to do a good job. Taking on the Women Build program is another step forward for Habitat in having an impact on our community and having a diverse group of volunteers. Our goal is always to help families have affordable, quality housing that they can be proud of because of the home and because of the work they put into it.”

For more information about Houston County Habitat for Humanity or the Women Build project, call 328-3388.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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