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Step-Up for Women, Habitat for Humanity help each other on Hagerstown project

June 12, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Kelli Panjehshahi of Hagerstown, left, and Mikaela Roach of Winchester, Va., secure a piece of fire resistent drywall to the ceiling of a garage on Woodpoint Avenue Women from Step Up for Women renovated a garage for Habitat for Humanity.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

A group of women training for employment in the construction industry participated in a Habitat for Humanity project Wednesday in Hagerstown.

Members of the Step-Up for Women program in Martinsburg, W. Va., which  provides training to help women find construction jobs, worked on a rehab project in the garage of a house in Hagerstown’s West End.

Program instructor Patrick McCoy said that the project was a way for the women to give back.

“It shows them the importance of giving back to their community and helping others in need,” he said.

The Habitat for Humanity project was the second major construction project for the program, which is in the final week of its eight-week course, McCoy said. The first was building a shed on the program’s site.

Throughout the course, the women — many of whom had no prior experience in construction — were trained in skills related to carpentry and electrical wiring.

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“Our goal is to get them equipped so they can get a job in the construction field,” he said.
Kelli Panjehshahi, 35, of Hagerstown said the program helped her focus and realize that she wanted to do electrical work. She has a job lined up with Tri-State Controls, where she will start Monday.

“I had a lot of administrative background, and I don’t want to be in an office anymore,” she said. “I want to get out and do something different outside of the office, and I saw this program and thought it would be great, and it’s helped me out and kind of got me focused on which trade I want to go into.”

Danessa Largent, 29, of Martinsburg said that she became a member of the program through a friend and described it as a “good opportunity.”
“You get hands-on experience,” she said. “It gets you out there meeting people.”

The Step-Up for Women program is an initiative of West Virginia Women Work, a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping women attain nontraditional jobs, mainly in skilled trades.

Jennifer Wood, program coordinator for West Virginia Women Work, said that through the program, members can receive an Occupational Safety Health Administration 10-hour construction safety certificate and a West Virginia helper’s license for plumbing and electrical work.

“We find women in need in the area that are looking to either make a clear change, to start work for the first time, and just give them the skills and abilities to go out there and start a job in construction,” she said.

Wood said that it is good to have every class spend one day with Habitat for Humanity.

“I think it’s really important because the women start to value more about what they’re learning and the skills they can use, and not only help themselves but help others,” she said.

The Habitat for Humanity project Wednesday involved putting a ceiling in the garage of a house at 300 Woodpoint Ave. to make a firewall to protect the home, Site Supervisor April Griffith said.

Griffith, who is a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, said that the women in the program are a “perfect match” for the project.

“One of the things that Habitat emphasizes is we don’t just build things, we teach people how to build things,” she said. “We need their help, and we can give them experience as the gift we give back to them, so it’s a really good deal.”

The Step-Up for Women courses last Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wood said. On Friday, the members have job search activities, which include meeting with employers, job shadowing and working on resumes, she said.

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