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North Hills Monthly

Habitat for Humanity Empowers Females with National Women Build Week

Apr 30, 2016 12:05PM ● By Erica Cebzanov

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh (HFHGP) will join Habitat affiliates nationwide in celebrating National Women Build Week, which empowers females to construct and refurbish affordable houses for low-income families. Due to volunteer demand, HFHGP has expanded the Lowe’s Home Improvement-sponsored event to April 30-May 31. 

National Women Build Week highlights homeownership challenges women face. “We work with a lot of single moms; typically, the mother is working two, maybe even three, jobs just to put food on the table and to make sure the kids have the medicine and clothes they need,” said Derek Kendall-Morris, HFHGP community engagement manager. “It’s an incredible juggling act. It amazes me to see what they’re able to do to provide for their families. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but these women are very strong and make it work for their kids.” 

Kendall-Morris noted that Pittsburgh lacks 21,000 necessary affordable housing units, causing some families to have to choose between basic needs, such as food and shelter, or to continually relocate.

“We never thought we could own a home before we met up with Habitat. Owning is so much better than renting, and we won’t have to worry so much about our safety once we are no longer in the place we live now,” wrote Sar Ka Nyaw prior to moving, along with her husband and three children, from a drug- and pest-ridden apartment building into a home built during the 2015 event. 

This year, HFHGP expects more than 200 volunteers to utilize a $5,000 Lowe’s grant for materials to use in hanging and finishing drywall, landscaping, porch repair, painting and foundation work to rehabilitate homes in Pittsburgh’s East End and East McKeesport. The nonprofit is currently accepting partner family applications for the East McKeesport home. 

“Some of the volunteers that we’ve seen are stay-at-home moms, part-time workers or retired. We do see some folks who take off work to volunteer and some companies will allow their employees to come out for one of the days instead of going to work,” said Kendall-Morris. 

ADP payroll services, Lowe’s and UPMC employees will volunteer during Women Build 2016. While National Women Build Week focuses on females, males are not excluded from participating. Prior construction experience is also not required. 

“Through Habitat, my daughters have learned how to measure, cut and hang drywall, use various power tools, sand and paint exterior walls, help unload a lumber delivery and do landscaping, among other tasks. I know that their experiences have given them the confidence to try some of these things on their own,” said Noreen Gramm, who has volunteered during National Women Build Week with daughters Erin and Megan.

In addition to registering for construction work, volunteers may sign up to bring food to project sites. Moreover, HFHGP’s ReStore, located in the Braddock Hills Shopping Center, accepts reusable appliances and building materials. In turn, all proceeds from selling the items benefit local Habitat projects.

“Throughout the year, we do some advocacy events and initiatives, where we try to engage our elected officials in terms of affordable housing issues and try to get them to make policy changes to help families in our area,” said Kendall-Morris. “If people want to get involved in that way, they can write their elected officials and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.”