Women of the house

April 26, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

HAGERSTOWN - For many years, women were labeled as homemakers.

Over the last three days, more than 100 women made a home from the foundation up as part of a Habitat for Humanity "blitz build" in Hagerstown.

Monday marked the final day of the "blitz build" project that saw two houses erected on Vickie Drive in Hagerstown. Habitat for Humanity of Washington County Executive Director Sherry Brown Cooper said the group accomplished as much, if not more, than it wanted to on the houses.

By the end of Monday's work, the majority of the exterior of both houses was completed, insulation had been installed in both and drywall had been installed in one of the homes. Tom Gerdy, a Virginia man who organized a near 70-person contingent of "road trippers" for the project, said only minor work was needed on the homes including some "detailing" and the installation of front steps.


While final touches were being put on the outside of the home being sponsored by First Data Merchant Services, work continued on the exterior of the house and interior insulation of the Women Build house.

The purpose of the Women Build project was to build a home almost entirely with women volunteers, Brown Cooper said. The group remained true to form throughout Saturday and for more than half of the hours worked Sunday, Brown Cooper said.

There were some men, however, who helped on the Women Build house late Sunday afternoon and Monday with tasks the female volunteers, most of whom were working with Habitat for Humanity for the first time, were not accustomed to, such as roofing and electrical installation.

Carrie Toepper, a Lynchburg, Va., volunteer supervising on-site work at the Women Build project, said her group worked at a steady, but sometimes slow, pace due to inclement weather and a large number of first-time builders.

Toepper, who traveled the country for more than two years as building supervisor for various Women Build projects, said what the group lacked in experience it made up for in enthusiasm.

"This one has been really good. They're willing to learn anything, and they don't have preconceived notions," Toepper said.

Toepper said the Women Build concept got its start more than five years ago under the direction of Linda Fuller, the wife of Habitat for Humanity's founder, who enjoyed physically working at the sites and wanted to get more women involved.

Taking over as the project's on-site supervisor now that Toepper has gone back to Virginia is Sherry Beer of Hagerstown. Beer said the three-day event was her fourth build.

Beer, who is used to being one of few, if any, women working at a site, said she was happy to see plenty of women out for the "blitz build" project.

"For us to have all these women out here was so nice," Beer said. "We're hoping many of them stay active. It'd be nice if even more would do it."

One of those first-time builders who said she would be back was Hagerstown resident Kim Athanas.

"It won't be the last," Athanas said. "This was the coolest thing I've ever done. I'm serious."

Dana Geddes, of Gaithersburg, Md., said she volunteered to help specifically because of the Women Build concept and enjoyed the intensity of the work.

"The fact that it's a women-only build and it's for charity is awesome," Geddes said. "I think a lot of people think, 'Women can help ... give me a glass of water.' It's like, 'No, you give me a hammer.'"

"A woman doesn't need to be doing laundry to make a home," she added.

Beer said the remaining work on the house will be done exclusively by women. Beer said the crew of women all left pleased with the progress.

Pam Meredith, a former South Hagerstown High School teacher who served on the Women Build planning committee, said she hopes the group will be able to organize another event within two years, after it completes raising money for the current project. Meredith said she can only hope for the same amount of support that the group received on this project from various companies, donors and even students, especially from her former school.

"The community support was fantastic," she said. "We have enough food to go three more days."

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