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Girl (em)powered

Annual Habitat event promotes women helping each other

Article by Danielle S. Tepper

Photography by Joe Barrett

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

In the male-dominated construction industry, Habitat for Humanity has been helping women feel empowered to build something with their own two hands since 1991. Their Women Build program grew from one group of women in Charlotte, N.C. (who completed the first ever women-built Habitat house) to groups of women all across the country coming together for this annual event to build affordable homes for low income families.

At Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland, April 15 to June 27, 2020, marks their 10th time participating. Primarily a crowdfunding effort through Classy.org, their Women Build event has a monetary goal of $250,000 while also striving to bolster the concept of women helping women—60% of Habitat households nationwide are female head-of-household led, with similarly tracked numbers in Md.

“It’s not only about empowering the women themselves who come out to learn new skills and help build,” says Jeff Dee, Director of Development. “It’s also about helping, by and large, women to move up the economic ladder as they work to build their homes.”  

The event has been a huge success, particularly over the past four years, so much so that they’ve grown from 20 teams of 10 participants to around 50. Each team tries to raise a minimum of $350 each toward the overall total, but many far surpass that.

Real estate company Compass allows their agents to give a portion of their commission to charity and then the company gives an additional $15 through their program, Compass Cares. This year, they have not one, not two, but three teams dedicated to the cause. Vice President Traudel Lange is one of the top fundraisers and had already raised almost $2,500 herself at press time.

“I’ve been very excited about it. I don’t have a problem asking for money,” she laughs. “I’ve never done it, but I’ve been involved in many other organizations to raise money, so this comes very naturally to me.”

“You’re not asking for much, but it can be a lot of work; the money doesn’t just come to you,” says Dee.

In addition to Women Build, Metro Maryland also hosts golf and polo tournaments and a benefit breakfast each year. Between that and the help from grants, individual donors, and profits from their ReStore, they aim to raise two million dollars every year to build homes and help communities.

Through the hard work of donors, volunteers, and event participants, “Women Build will be part of making three houses a reality this year,” says Dee.

“The most important thing for people to know is that they don’t have to have any skills, or equipment,” he continues. “We will help them and give them a good experience so that at the end of the day, you can walk away saying wow, I built that window or I helped put that doorframe in.”

Men can also participate, but Dee says the major draw is women’s desire to help other women.

“They want to find a way to have a tangible impact. It’s getting together with friends and physically doing something with their hands, building something, learning a skill, paying it forward. Women Build shows them what’s possible.”

So if you've ever wanted to be able to say you know how to wield a chop saw or a sledgehammer ... this is your moment. And you can do it while knowing that you're building a home a family will cherish.

To learn more about how you can support Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland and Women Build, visit habitatmm.org/get-involved/events/women-build.

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