by Beth MacChesney
Yesterday was a really good day. I devoted my whole day to help out at the Women’s Build – Lexington Habitat For Humanity. Yep. A home built entirely by women.
I’ve heard of this; read about this; seen people post and tweet and blog about this… for years.
I’ve thought it sounded ‘neat’ or ‘cool’ or ‘fun,’ but I’ve always come up with an excuse of ‘don’t have the time’ … ‘too much to do’…. errands… work… kids’ activities…. weather… etc….
Last week (thanks to Rhonda Bartlett who posted on facebook, followed by a Thursday E-Blast from NAWBO Lexington), I decided to put all my obligations and so-called excuses on hold for one day. Wow, were my eyes opened wide.
I had no idea what stage of completion this house was: just an address to show up at, and an email instructing me to wear closed-toe shoes and to bring a pair of work gloves.
I’m not sure what I was expecting. I thought maybe I’d be painting, or landscaping.
I showed up not knowing a soul — which, really has never been an issue for me —but I immediately observed this totally orchestrated group of women, of all ages —from all sorts of backgrounds and skill sets and career paths — all being assigned the tasks of the day, by Laura, the Build Director. She’s a cabinetmaker by trade who devotes a few weeks of her life every year to supervise a women’s build Habitat home.
It was an organized whirlwind of carpentry everywhere I turned. Within minutes I was given a tool apron and shown how to cut with a circular saw. The sharpest tool I’d ever used in my life up until then was a case cutter and scissors.
Then onto nailing board, blue foam sheathing and taping seams on interior walls of the garage; then onto the exterior North side of the house, nailing board, then blue foam sheathing, then taping the seaming – right below the roof line while balancing on a very tall ladder. My partner Becki and I had to move and shim my ladder and her extension ladder every few feet in very uneven mud, gravel, etc.
I was asked if I was scared of heights before my exterior wall assignment and I quickly said ‘NO. I’m Good.’ It wasn’t until I started to climb up this wiggly, gingerly-balanced aluminum ladder with a hammer in hand (and I could look out out over the whole neighborhood) that I questioned my sanity or bravery about every 30 seconds.
Too stubborn or too proud, I stuck it out and accompanied Becki till we’d done the whole side of the house.
Except for a brief break at lunch and a few stops for a swig of water, it was non-stop work all day. We all got to ‘sign’ a wall in the garage (though it will be drywalled over; Laura explained it’s a tradition on a women’s build to have the written blessing from every women whose hands helped build it).
I met a group of very cool women (many of whom have built 50+ homes), who I now call my new friends.
I’ve been asked to come back in a month after the subcontractors have completed plumbing, to help paint, etc.
Today, I’m pretty sore, a little sun-burned, but filled with a joy that is hard to describe.
I spent a few minutes chatting with future homeowner Tenisha, who was humbled and grateful beyond words. As she looked around this quiet dead-end street of this lovely new subdivision (where she will be living soon to raise her two boys and brand new baby girl), she said “One of the things I’m looking forward to most is having a safe, quiet place for my kids to ride their bikes and go trick or treating… I’ve always had to drive them somewhere for Halloween.”
It made me feel humbled and grateful that I can say I was part of fulfilling Tenisha’s dream – which is what every mom wants – a safe, quiet place for their kids to play – something many of us (I know I have) just simply take for granted.
Lexington Habitat for Humanity hopes to finish Tenisha’s home in time for her and her family to be home for the holidays. Additional volunteer dates for the Women Build house are September 12/13; Sep 19 and 20; Sep 26 and 27; and Oct. 3 and 4. Contact Lexington Habitat for info.
This article also appears on page 18 of the September 4, 2014 print issue of Ace.
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