Since 2005, Women Build in Baton Rouge has been bringing women together to address poverty in the community by building 15 Habitat for Humanity homes for 15 mothers and their children. Habitat is now recruiting volunteer teams to help with this year’s Women Build project, which is part of an international initiative that uses all-female volunteer workforces to build single-family homes while helping women further develop their skills on the construction site.
“I can hardly describe how much I have enjoyed Habitat,” says longtime Women Build volunteer Tricia Day. “I did volunteer work before this, but it wasn’t anything I stayed with on a yearly basis. In contrast, I enjoyed Women Build so much from the very beginning, and I look forward to it starting every year.”
Day began volunteering with Women Build in 2006 after she saw a note on the bulletin board at her yoga studio about an upcoming workshop for women to be trained in some skills for the Habitat Women Build. She went to the workshop, and the rest is history.
While dedicated members such as Day come out to volunteer weekly, local women-centered groups routinely come for a day every year to support the project. Over the years, Junior League, Inner Wheel, NAWIC, Women in Business at BASF, the LSU Tiger Girls dance team, The Links, Alpha Kappa Alpha and many others have all loaned their members to Women Build.
The first day of each build project is always very organized in order to maximize the work done. By the end of the day, what started as a slab of concrete on a vacant lot is the frame of a house.
“Women Build allows women to learn construction skills in a very non-threatening and nurturing environment,” says Habitat for Humanity Executive Direction Lynn Clark. “No prior experience or skill is needed—you just need willing hands and an open heart, and we will teach you right on the spot!”
Every Wednesday and Saturday for the next 3 to 4 months, groups of women volunteers—along with the homeowner herself—receive training on the build site and learn as they go, making the home a reality.
In addition to helping low-income women afford to buy a house, Women Build is about improving the community. Builds often occur in neighborhoods with multiple vacant lots on the same street. “You notice sooner or later that the other occupants and landlords on that street are sprucing up their houses as well. They see new houses going up and it makes them proud of their neighborhood,” says Day.
In response to the pandemic, Women Build decided to change its format this year, with plans to begin construction in October of 2021.
“Traditionally, we have raised funding for the build through our silent auction/gala called the Pink Tool Belt Bash,” says Clark. “But large, in-person events are not very feasible, so this year we have moved to a new strategy.”
Women Build is currently looking for $5,000-level sponsors to provide teams of 10 to 20 volunteers for a day on the build site—whether a company sponsorship or just a privately funded group of friends and coworkers.
“We would love to have new individuals and groups volunteer with us,” says Clark. “What a great feeling at the end of the day to know that you helped a family achieve their goal of homeownership. And years later, you can drive by the house and see the fruits of your hard work that day!”
To learn more or offer your volunteer services, contact development manager Joe Luhning at [email protected].