Tonya Majersky and her daughter Jordan of Aurora decided to celebrate Mother’s Day weekend a bit differently this year.
Rather than shopping together or going to lunch, they elected to pound nails into two-by-fours and haul lumber.
“Both of us have been involved with giving back to the community, and this is a way to spend some quality time together during the Mother’s Day weekend,” Tonya Majersky said.
The Majerskys were part of a crew of more than 20 women who came out Saturday morning to haul away debris and build walls during an all-female construction effort conducted by Aurora’s Habitat for Humanity.
Their efforts will help Aurora family Odette and Theo Uwamahoro and their two daughters move into a four-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath home at 1557 Solfisburg Ave. in Aurora later this fall.
The event was part of a two-day build in observance of the 10th-annual National Women Build Week. A smaller crew worked Friday raising trusses and installing the roof on a garage at a home at 564 Spruce St. in Aurora.
Volunteers Saturday included residents from a wide range of communities including Naperville, Batavia, Oswego and Yorkville, who were organized by Julie Clark, Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity volunteer coordinator, who said that participation included fundraising as well as sweat equity.
“I started setting this up a couple of months ago, and all of the volunteers were asked to raise at least $150 each to defray some of the cost of the project for the professionals that are here working with us,” Clark said. “Together, they collected over $5,000 and we also got a $2,500 donation from the RE/MAX Realty Group.”
Clark said she also designed special pink T-shirts for volunteers to wear proclaiming that women were more than capable of doing heavy construction work.
“Our shirts say ‘We Can Build It’ and we’ve made this building site pink,” Clark proclaimed proudly as she surveyed the crew.
Long-time volunteer Aurora resident Al Green served as the lead carpenter at the site. He said he spent some time teaching his charges what to do Saturday before setting them free to start their work.
“The ladies are doing great and I worked with some yesterday where they put up plywood and trusses at another project we are doing,” Green said. “I don’t let them touch any of the saws or use the nail gun, but I spent some time coaching them and getting started. I’m not sure they’ll be able to lift the walls once they are built, but there is definitely a more cooperative spirit.”
Green said his charges “seem to have more fun with this than men do” — a sentiment that others echoed, including soon-to-be homeowner Odette Uwamahoro.
“I come by each day to work on the house and so far, I’ve put in about 450 hours,” she said. “We have to put in between 350 and 500 work hours as part of the Habitat program, but it’s been exciting to see this each day and know you’re getting a step closer. I’ve worked with Al Green on other projects and he’s amazing. My skills have really grown.”
Naperville resident Jeff Naumann said he was lending a hand with some of the electrical work and that “construction work wasn’t gender specific.”
“I’ve worked as a volunteer maybe five or six years with this group, and you see women as well as men helping out,” he said. “Everyone finds this rewarding.”
Aurora resident Lawella Szweda said she was the recipient of a Habitat for Humanity restoration project at 775 George Ave. and that she passed the threshold of work hours “long ago.”
“I work for American Greetings and we’re going to be super busy this weekend with Mother’s Day, but I wanted to come here and work before I go to that job,” Szweda said. “I want to give back what’s been given to me and this is fun. Al [Green] has taught me how to drywall and he’s a great leader — he never loses his patience and everyone here has been willing to do anything.”
Participants said they found Saturday’s efforts “empowering.”
“I think this is a great way for us to connect with others and I like help building houses,” Jordan Majersky said. “Together, we are helping and empowering another woman, and that is also empowering us.”
David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.