DEPTFORD TWP. — More than 50 female volunteers will gather over three days this week to build a house for a veteran with a newborn baby, as part of Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week.
The week, which is being celebrated May 9, 10 and 11, is part of a campaign launched in partnership with Lowe’s to help empower women to advocate for affordable housing and get out there and build.
“This week gives us a chance to get women out there building houses,” said Tony Isabella, executive director of Gloucester County’s Habitat affiliation. “To get them out here, swinging hammers, working hard building a house is an empowering thing for everyone involved.”
But for some participants, the week is about more than just learning a new trade.
Ketty Christian, public relations coordinator for the Gloucester County Habitat for Humanity, was once a partner family — a family who got a house through Habitat for Humanity. Christian and her family of seven found themselves in desperate need of a home, living only off of her husband’s truck-driver salary and unable to afford one on their own.
“I graduated from Rowan University and then a year later got my masters as well,” she said. “But as I tried to find a job, I was told that I was overqualified due to my education and under-qualified in experience.”
The family applied for Habitat for Humanity, got approved, and began their 350 sweat-equity hours, finishing them in record time.
“You get to work on your house and other houses to get the hours done, so you’re helping yourself and other people,” she added.
Her favorite part of the experience, though, was standing inside a house that she helped to build and knowing that her family would soon live there; they’d finally have a place of their own.
She also learned a lot about home repairs from the experience, something she enjoys seeing volunteers, especially the women, take away from their time.
“There are so many DIY house fixer-upper shows and we all watch them and get sucked in,” she said. “We think ‘that’s so cool, I want to do that,’ and through volunteering [with Habitat for Humanity] you learn all types of skills that you need to actually do it.”
The women participating in National Women Build Week will learn how to put siding on a home, build sheds, and many other more basic home repairs.
“We’re actually hoping that through this week’s efforts we’ll have this house completely built so we can get the family in here as soon as possible,” said Isabella.
The home the women are working to build on Tanyard Road will be that of Rosa Piniero, a two-tour veteran who was a U.S. Marine. Piniero had a hard time re-assimilating after returning home which led to her being homeless with a newborn.
“This house is for her,” said Christian. “What better way to thank our vets and empower women than by helping to build a home for this woman?”
The goal is to have Piniero moved in by the end of summer.
Nationwide, it’s expected that more than 17,000 women and Lowe’s Heroes volunteers from across the country are expected to volunteer as part of Habitat’s 2017 National Women Build Week. To provide for the event, Lowe’s donated $2 million and volunteers to more than 300 Habitat locations hosting the builds.
“A lot of planning goes into building these homes and a lot of planning goes into [National Women Build Week],” said Isabella. “It’s a good, fun event that gives back and empowers women.”