Habitat for Humanity offers construction skills to women

Just because construction is typically a man’s work, that doesn’t mean women can’t also learn the same skills and build a house from the ground up.

This fall, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County (Habitat Kent) is offering onsite classes for women on everything from house framing to trim carpentry, priming and painting, flooring, landscaping, and more with its new Women Build program.

Habitat Kent hosted a National Women Build Week event for women in the past that coincided around Mother’s day and was designed to bring mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and aunts together to work on a house. The new Women Build program takes the weeklong program much further and, over a six-month period, teaches women the construction skills needed to build a house from start to finish.

The daylong classes start Nov. 16 and happen Fridays and Saturdays through May 11. There’s about a two-month break between mid-December to mid-February to give skilled professionals such as electricians and plumbers time to work on the house.

The complete schedule is online and women can choose to participate in any or all classes, or “whatever they’re comfortable with and whatever they can fit in,” says Amy Snow-Buckner, donor relations coordinator.

At the Habitat Kent house volunteer sites, Snow-Buckner says many of the volunteers who come have never done anything like this before so there’s always an orientation and safety guidelines shared at the beginning of each day.

Women must be age 16 and up for most Women Build classes, with a few exceptions where only those 18 or older can participate. Six of the classes also allow teenage girls as young as 14 to attend.

This year’s Women Build house is located at 307 Robey SE and the goal is to finish it the weekend before Mother’s day. A landscaping party will be held then so women of every generation can spend quality time together volunteering.

Habitat Kent, in collaboration with the new homeowners, volunteers and community organizations, rehabilitates or builds an average of 30 houses each year. Women are the head of the household in 66 percent of these homes. That’s part of the reason the organization wants to get more women involved in the construction process. The other reason is to empower women and teach them invaluable skills they can use in their own homes.  

“This is a great opportunity for women of all walks of life to come together and help hardworking families obtain affordable housing,” Snow-Buckner says.

To qualify for a Habitat home, a family must have a clear need for new housing, meet certain income and job requirements, and come up with money down. Each family also has to perform 300-500 “sweat equity” volunteer hours, either by working at the new house site or in the office.

Since Habitat Kent began in 1983, they have helped more than 350 families become homeowners. And since 2007, all of the homes are designed to be LEED-certified and energy efficient to ensure the lowest possible utility bills.

In partnership with the program, Lowe’s, a major sponsor of the Women Build house, will soon be offering clinics at its Plainfield Avenue location, too.

Habitat Kent has created a Women Build Steering Committee to help recruit more volunteers and raise funds so it can become an annual program. So far, 13 women -- some well known in the community and some from the construction industry -- have signed on, with openings for a few more members.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm in the community surrounding Women Build," says Snow-Buckner. "Women are embracing the program and wanting to be a part of it."

If you’re a woman who wants to learn construction skills and help a hardworking family own a home, here’s how to get involved with the Habitat Kent Women Build program:

-    Visit the Habitat for Humanity of Kent County Women Build program online to find out more.
-    Sign up for a Women Build class by calling 616-588-5240 or via email.
-    Inquire about being on the Women Build Steering Committee by contacting Amy Snow-Buckner at 616-588-5248 or via email.
-    Make an in-kind donation for Women Build by contacting Habitat Kent’s Director of Gifts In-Kind, Roger Peterman, at 616-588-5223 or via email.
-    Donate to Habitat Kent.
-    Volunteer with Habitat Kent in a variety of ways. Sign up here.
-    Like them on Facebook.

Source: Amy Snow-Buckner, Donor Relations Coordinator of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Photos provided by Habitat for Humanity of Kent County.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.