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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018 7 months ago

West Orange Habitat for Humanity gears up for Women Build

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West Orange Habitat for Humanity, which offers a hand up in building homes for families in need, is preparing for its second Women Build event.
by: Danielle Hendrix Black Tie Editor

If you’re a woman, and you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty and learn some new skills along the way, West Orange Habitat for Humanity has a pink hard hat with your name on it.

In honor of National Women Build Week, WOHFH is gearing up to host its second Women Build Day. Everyone involved gets to try their hand at learning new homebuilding skills, all while helping other women achieve their new homes through Habitat.

Recent market trends show that in Orange County — one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation — the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is just more than $1,300.

What trends don’t show, though, is that the continued growth and limited access to affordable housing has become a challenge for those trying to find it. Some families find themselves spending 60% to 70% of their income on housing alone, causing a financial crisis and vicious cycle of poverty.

That’s where Habitat for Humanity comes in — and where local women get to help make a difference. 

Habitat’s National Women Build Week is an annual weeklong event that invites women to fundraise and devote at least one day to build while helping families build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. The week is meant to spotlight the homeownership challenges faced by women. 

Shellonda Hill, pictured here with her two daughters, is a recipient of one of the Green Oaks Row homes in Winter Garden.

Habitat partners with Lowe’s to engage with and build up local communities with more than 18,000 women volunteers in 300 communities nationwide this year.

In the West Orange community, “50 Women Strong” will don their pink hard hats May 5 and dive headfirst into the homebuilding experience, along with the three women — Shellonda Hill, Victoria Grace and Ursula (Habitat isn’t releasing her last name for privacy reasons) — receiving WOHFH’s homes in the new Green Oaks Row community in Winter Garden.

“Women like to build,” said Marilyn Hattaway, WOHFH director of development. “They like to learn new skills and homebuilding and do not have to have a whole lot of experience doing those kind of things. …Most of all, I think they like helping women get into homes.”

Last year WOHFH set a goal to launch Women Build Day with 25 women; it ended up with 40. This year the goal is to start with 50 women who will do some fundraising and leave their mark on Green Oaks Row homes.

“We suggest a fundraising goal of $1,000, but last year our goal was 25 women, we wound up with 40 and raised over $40,000 that way,” Hattaway said. “It was just done by women saying, ‘I’m working on Women Build and I love Habitat…I’m gonna go out and sling the hammer, but maybe you wouldn't mind donating $10 or $25.’ …When women get involved we start with education and then tell them how important it is to fund affordable housing. These houses cost about $100,000 to build, give or take, and we have to raise that somewhere, somehow.”

This year’s event kicks off with a Women Build Wine Mingle event, which gives women involved the chance to meet each other and the three families receiving the Green Oaks Row homes. Leading up to the build day, participants will have the chance to attend a workshop at Lowe’s, where they’ll learn a construction aspect such as repairing drywall or installing a sink prior to the build.

And although men are welcome at the Women Build event and play a big role in WOHFH’s mission, too, this one’s for the girls.

“The women in this community are awesome,” Hattaway said. “They care about their community, and they care about other women, and maybe that’s why Women Build is so wonderful, is because they do. When it’s a close-knit community and people care, to me, Women Build just hits all those good feelings.”

Danielle Hendrix is the Black Tie Editor for all three of Observer Media Group's print publications in Orange County. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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