Women with a Cause 2019: Bridget Kaigler
Bridget Kaigler knows what it’s like to struggle.
More than 20 years ago, Kaigler’s marriage fell apart, leaving her to raise a young son alone. With no real job skills to apply for a decent-paying position, finding a clean, affordable home in a good neighborhood was challenging. “I know how the struggle is trying to find not only affordable housing but just a really nice place to live,” Kaigler says.
Today, Kaigler, 42, is a licensed certified public accountant, a public speaker and the owner of a leadership development firm. “Our situation is definitely different than what it was back then, but we will never forget where we came from,” says Kaigler.
That initial struggle has made Kaigler a perfect addition to the support team at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge, a nonprofit organization that builds homes for qualified families in need.
When a friend familiar with Kaigler’s past—and her expertise in accounting—asked if she’d be interested in serving on Habitat’s board, Kaigler jumped at the chance. “I was definitely excited about the opportunity to be able to serve more in my community,” she says.
Kaigler has served as a Habitat for Humanity board member for three years and on the organization’s executive board as treasurer for two years. As treasurer, Kaigler oversees all the financial aspects and decisions related to the Baton Rouge chapter. She watches over donor giving and provides strategic planning on where the organization wants to be in the future. “My goal is to make myself connected and available to the organization at all times,” Kaigler says.
As a board member, Kaigler reviews applications and helps give final approval on which families will receive a home built by the organization. She also helps with “builds” and decides who the organization wants to partner with to raise funds.
Each year, on average, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge builds 10 to 13 homes for families, she says. The nonprofit also assists when natural disasters strike, including providing 73 homes for Hurricane Katrina evacuees and making critical repairs to 21 flood-damaged homes in 2016, Kaigler says.
But it’s the people the organization is helping who stand out most to Kaigler. Each year, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge holds a Christmas party for the families who have had homes built for them. Toys are provided for the children, and sometimes these presents are the only gifts the children will receive, Kaigler says. “To be able to see the look on the families’ faces—we’re making dreams come true.” habitatbrla.org
What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you do?
We are making dreams come true. Many individuals pitch in to help to assist with the builds. We may not know the person we’re working with. By the end of the day, it seems as if we’ve known each other for a while. This is community.
How is your cause making a difference?
We are providing affordable housing to deserving families. Also, we are mitigating the issue of blight, increasing property values and beautifying the areas in which we build.
Is there a big or annual event for your cause?
Held in February/March, Hammer and Hands raises funds for home builds. Pink Tool Belt Bash in October raises funds to support our Women’s Build program.
What is something we don’t know about your cause?
Habitat just celebrated its 30-year anniversary. Since 1989, we have built 363 homes in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas. Ninety-two homeowners have paid off their mortgages.