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Habitat begins second Women Build project in Washington County

May 12, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

Melissha Vaughn's three daughters are excited to have a big backyard to play in and want a swing set, the single mother said Saturday morning as she stood behind her soon-to-be house on Wayside Avenue.

Vaughn watched, and helped, as volunteers started building her Mother's Day present. Vaughn will be Habitat for Humanity's newest homeowner as soon as her home is built.

Saturday was the kickoff for Habitat for Humanity of Washington County's second Women Build home project. Mother's Day weekend was an obvious start date for a project meant to empower and celebrate women, volunteers said.

Almost 40 Habitat for Humanity Women Build volunteers swarmed around the lot and by midafternoon, walls stood where only a foundation was.

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The Women Build organizers hope to empower women, said Marji Cialli-Gearhart, who is on Habitat's board of directors. The women attend building classes taught by local volunteers to gain the skills, then use those skills to construct a Habitat house.

Women Build shows that women don't just take care of a home, they can build it, too, said Sherry Brown Cooper, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County.

Vaughn and her children lived in public housing for more than eight years when she contacted Habitat for Humanity last year, said Vaughn, who was born and raised in Hagerstown.

"It's been a real riot watching violence go on around me and my children (in public housing)," said Vaughn, who works full time at a bank.

After her house is complete, Vaughn will be expected to pay back a no-profit, no-interest mortgage, Brown Cooper said.

She looks forward to having something to call her own, Vaughn said.

Vaughn also built "sweat equity" before she was approved for a Habitat house by volunteering for Habitat for 50 hours, Brown Cooper said.

If the build goes according to schedule, Vaughn and her family will spend Thanksgiving in their new home, Brown Cooper said.

Mona Stevens, 77, was helping build Vaughn's new home on Saturday.

The Wayside Avenue property is the second Habitat home that Stevens has worked on since joining Habitat two years ago. This weekend, the retired schoolteacher worked as a crew leader, carrying walls across the yard and swinging a hammer.

She learned a lot of construction skills after joining Habitat, Stevens said as she rested Saturday morning, wearing gray sweat pants, a T-shirt and a ballcap.

"I had helped my husband and father with their projects, but I was just a go-getter," Stevens said. "I wanted to learn the skills."

She learned plumbing, leveling, sawing and hammering in preparation for the home construction, Stevens said.

"It keeps you busy," she said. "You have the feeling you're doing something for someone else."

Volunteers will work on the home Wednesdays and Saturdays until it's complete. For the past year, volunteers also have organized various fundraisers to pay for the construction.

By the time the home is finished, Vaughn will know the house from top to bottom, and won't have to rely on anyone else for repair work or help, Cialli-Gearhart said.

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