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Habitat for Humanity more than swinging a hammer

Leader of Women Build urges those on the verge of volunteering to take that next step

March 28, 2012|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com

By trade, Teresa Taylor is an operations manager.

At heart, she loves building houses.

Pounding nails, sawing lumber, hanging drywall -— it’s very rewarding to watch things come together, the Hagerstown resident said.

“Building something for someone who needs and appreciates it is even better,” she added.

For almost six years, Taylor has been a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Washington County. In particular, she is part of Women Build — a Habitat program that teaches construction skills to women. Those skills are then used to build affordable houses.

Taylor said she had been a donor to Habitat for Humanity International for a number of years and supported its mission.

After seeing an article in The Herald-Mail about the local Women Build group, she decided to attend a meeting and become an active participant.

She’s been involved ever since, she said.

And her involvement comes at multiple levels. She is the current leader of Women Build, serves on Habitat’s fundraising committee and is vice president of the board of directors, a position she has held for the past three years. She also served a year as board secretary.

Taylor said she enjoys volunteering with the local Habitat organization “because I enjoy learning new skills and working with power tools.”

“But to get a real idea of how rewarding volunteering with Habitat is, you just have to come to a house dedication,” she said. “The raw emotion is undeniable.

“When the new homeowner family gets their keys and knows all their hard work has paid off, it is the best feeling in the world to know you had a part in helping create that,” Taylor said. “Also, when you are able to work along side the members of the family who are working toward home ownership, you can see the pride in their eyes. You get to know them and understand the challenges they have endured. The rewards continue when families get into positions to pay it forward.”

As head of the Women Build program, Taylor said she is one of about 20 women who attend meetings the second Monday of each month at the Ramada Plaza.

“In addition, we have a number of ladies who come out during build season and a few women’s groups from local businesses who sign up for work days,” she said.

The local Women Build program will be constructing its seventh house this year.

Taylor said she has met people who are sitting on the fence about volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. She had a request for them.

“Take a little extra time to learn more about Habitat,” Taylor said. “There are so many myths — the biggest that we give away houses. Habitat for Humanity is a hand up, not a handout. The families put in sweat equity and do pay an affordable mortgage. Even the kids participate to the sweat equity by getting good grades.”

Taylor also noted that even if a volunteer can’t swing a hammer, there are many things that go into getting houses built, such as fundraising, providing lunches, being a site host and public relations.

“We are always looking for people who can build in those areas, too,” she said.

When she isn’t volunteering at Habitat, Taylor is employed with McElroy Metal Inc. in Winchester, Va., where she has worked for 21 years. She has been operations manager for a little more than eight years.

Originally from Harrington, Del., Taylor attended Shepherd University (then Shepherd College). She moved to Hagerstown 20 years ago.

More information about Habitat for Humanity of Washington County and the Women Build program is available by calling 301-791-9009.

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