Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Habitat Builders Not All Men; Program Helps Women Take Part

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Habitat Builders Not All Men; Program Helps Women Take Part

Article excerpt


Judith Jackson, a 65-year-old resident of Pace Island, once single-handedly built a two-story shed -- rafters and all -- to hold her massive tool collection and she recently tore out a kitchen wall and built a bigger pantry.

"My brother died young so my father taught me how to do things and build things," said Jackson, who has been volunteering with Clay County Habitat for Humanity for more than a dozen years. "I've never been a girly girl, I guess."

The widow, who took up soccer at age 40, is slated to lead a female crew to build a $50,000 Clay Habitat home this fall as part of Women Build 2006, a campaign to recruit more female Habitat volunteers. Men aren't excluded, though.

Using volunteer labor and donations, Habitat builds simple homes and sells them to low-income families using affordable, no-interest loans. Homeowners are required to invest hundreds of hours -- sweat equity -- to build their Habitat house and others.

Women Build is a Habitat for Humanity International program that encourages women and girls to have fun and make a difference by building homes. About 800 Habitat houses have been built by female crews around the world.

The goal is to make women more comfortable on job sites, said Gamble Wright, interim director of Clay Habitat.

"It's such a male-dominated thing," she said. "Getting them more involved means more homes get built, more donations come in and more fellowship."

Jackson said women mistakenly think they don't have the brawn or know-how to volunteer.

"There's nothing women can't do," said Jackson. "The supervisors will tell you what to do. You put on whatever. You don't have to wear makeup. You show up out here and everybody is thrilled to have you. And even if you mess up big time, you never get fired from this job."

Jackson said her father taught her about construction long before power tools. …

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