Several months ago, more than 40 women of Ash Brokerage raised their hands. They joined together to help build new homes – and new lives – for local families.
Our team, “Big Ash Hammers and Heels,” was part of 10th annual Habitat for Humanity Women Build, where all-female teams from the area came together to volunteer, raise funds and create awareness for Habitat in a special way.
Before you hear about our team’s experiences, you should know a few things about Habitat for Humanity. First of all, it’s not a hand out – it’s a hand up. Contrary to popular belief, the homes built by the organization are NOT free. The families who are selected for the program pay zero-interest mortgages, making the dream of homeownership possible for those who would otherwise not be able to afford it. They are required to take classes on personal finance and put many hours of “sweat equity” into their home and the homes of other families in the program.
The Greater Fort Wayne program is unique in that it has created a community of homes at Fuller’s Landing, a subdivision off Cook Road. The plot of land was donated to Habitat several years ago and has 110 lots. So far, they’ve built 28 homes with a goal to finish 10 more in 2017.
The idea of building a community was based off a similar program in Nashville, where they realized that Habitat families have a special bond and tend to look out for each other. They also made sure to add a front porch to every home because studies show that front-porch communities tend to have lower crime rates.
The Fort Wayne program is so popular – and there is such a need – there are already 27 families on a three-year waiting list. For now, they’ve had to close the application process.
Two other fun facts about Habitat in Fort Wayne:
In addition to volunteering at Fuller’s Landing for a day, the members of Big Ash Hammers and Heels were tasked with raising money to support Habitat for Humanity. Here are the final results of our efforts:
We asked our Women Build participants to share a bit about their work with the project. Some had previous experience with the Women Build or other Habitat builds, but for many, it was their first time volunteering. Their stories are both inspiring and entertaining!
Learning about Habitat for Humanity and what they REALLY do was inspirational in and of itself. I learned how to hang siding and soffit, how to install cabinet doors and adjust/level them, and they even trusted me with a nail gun – yikes! The two team leads I worked with weren’t experienced: one was a retired software/IT guy and the other was a school teacher. Just like me, they didn’t really have experience when they started their volunteer journey – they’re just giving their time to a family that in the end is going to have a real home to call their own!
Funny note: Everyone thinks having to listen to “safety” and wear the hard hat and safety glasses is annoying, but let me tell you why they do it. Not 10 minutes into working, Jessica Garman wacked me across the head with a two-by-four. Thank GOODNESS I had a hard hat!
I signed up to raise money to support Habitat’s mission and give back to an amazing cause that impacts so many lives. Last year was such a great experience that I wanted to be a part of Ash’s team again this year and raise some money! BIG THANKS to Ash for allowing us to make a BIG IMPACT for Habitat for Humanity families in Fort Wayne!
This year I was able to experience electrical work. (NO LIVE WIRES!) We ran cable and phone lines. (Yes, they can have a real telephone in their home.) We finished all the outlets and made sure they were ready for inspection, which was the following day. I later found out we passed!
The most memorable thing about our workday was the amount of mud and rain we were dealing with. It created an extra challenge, but it really contributed to our feeling of solidarity as we all dealt with it together. We created walkways over mud with extra boards, we warned each other about puddles as we walked blindly with dry wall, and all of us took turns trudging through the thick muddy spots to get to our materials. By the end of the day, we had embraced the rainy chaos and felt like we really worked hard and well together.
It was pretty cool to get to meet the homeowner, who stopped by while we were working on her home. A lot of great people working together to make dreams happen – I would 100 percent encourage others to volunteer at least once. I can’t even put into works how humbling the experience was. I am definitely looking forward to going back.
I learned a couple of things while working on the house, one from my crew chief and one from my personal experience:
This was my second year volunteering for Habitat, and each year I feel like I enjoy it more. All of the site leaders were so friendly and encouraging. It was also neat because I found out that one of the leaders knew my dad, so I enjoyed making that connection with him. I would encourage others to volunteer because just think about how important your own home is to you and the smile on someone’s face when they receive their new home which they’ve worked so hard for. It can really change a family’s life.
This was my third try with the Habitat group. The first time was totally unorganized so we just stood around, second time got rained out but, as they say, the third time is a charm. Kristy Holland and I worked inside a house running electrical, telephone and cable wiring. Our “supervisor/instructor” was wonderful – he is an instructor for the electrician’s apprentice program. In addition to giving good instruction and letting us roll after that, he shared the story of the homeowner we were doing this work for. She takes care of her niece who is disabled, and this house represents a permanent home for her. I am very familiar with losing it all, building back up, and finally being able to purchase a home of my own (in my case, again). These are amazing stories, and it is an amazing organization with volunteers doing work from the heart. I will definitely do it again next year!
Once we were on site, I realized that one of the houses we were going to be working on was actually for a girl who graduated high school with my daughter and is now a single mother. She comes from a great family, so I was so excited to be able to help build her and her daughter a place to call their own. Pretty powerful stuff!
My funny takeaway: Our team job on build day was to put up siding, so being able to learn that skill was pretty cool … I tell everyone I can now side a house, but only the bottom 5 feet – you’re responsible for the rest! (No ladders for this girl!)
This is my fifth time volunteering for a Habitat build; however, it was the first time I learned that this isn’t charity per se. It is way for people who have had it rough to stand back up and take hold of their finances. This is an organization that offers a chance to own a home to someone who wouldn’t be considered otherwise. I thought it was amazing that the homeowner not only volunteers time toward building someone else’s home, but also takes budgeting and finance classes, and saves for a down payment. I appreciate that this organization isn’t giving a hand out, but a hand up. I am glad to have been a part of that.
Our build day was overcast, rainy and muddy from rains during the week – not at all what I wanted for this day. As we walked from the host house to the build site, even though I had on a rain poncho, I still got pretty wet. I was thinking, “Great what a way to start my day!” The day ended up being educational, fun and fulfilling. I got on the electrical team, and Bruce the foreman showed us how to install electrical boxes and run the wiring. He emphasized to us to look at this house like we were going to live here – well, that put a different light on things! While putting electrical boxes in the kitchen, my team discovered some of the boxes weren’t all the same height from where the kitchen counter would be – so we redid three of them and made sure the rest around the counter were all the same height.
After lunch we went outside (it had stopped raining). We sorted and restacked usable materials and threw trash away. You guessed it – our shoes got pretty muddy! Our team even took a picture of our muddy shoes! I can’t remember the last time I have been so muddy that it was a chore to pick up my foot – it actually was fun! Being a small part of the big project was an awesome way to help women get affordable housing – and now I have electrical experience as well!
The women’s build was such a great experience! We all worked extremely hard as a team, and it was truly rewarding to know all of our efforts were for others. I left with a great feeling of accomplishment and could hardly move the next day from running the air gun most of the day – I used muscles that hadn’t been worked like that in a while!
It was a great experience. When you combine helping others with enhancing friendships, the result is nothing but joy.