October 10, 2011
Women lend helping hand
Group builds walls on Homer Village Green for Habitat house
David Blatchley/contributing photographer
Marathon resident Jessica Teal uses a circular saw to cut a piece of board for a Habitat for Humanity construction project in Homer.
HOMER — Mariela Toro and Jessica Teal worked about 30 feet apart for much of Saturday afternoon on the Village Green, a study in contrasts as they hammered nails and sawed sections of wood.
Toro is a SUNY Cortland freshman from Manhattan who had never tried building anything before joining the college’s Habitat for Humanity club in August. Teal is a laborer for FAHS Construction, who has been constructing houses and other buildings for the company for seven years.
They were two of the 40 volunteers with Women Build, a division of Habitat for Humanity that helps women empower themselves by teaching them construction, breaking the idea that it is a male domain. They were working on walls for a single-family house that will be erected at 5 Meadowbrook Drive in Homer.
Toro used a circular saw to cut 2-by-6-inch pine planks, overseen by supervisor Michi Schulenberg. Toro said she began using tools when her club worked on the Habitat for Humanity house being constructed on Clinton Avenue Extension in Cortland.
She said her parents are proud of her for learning construction, something none of her family can do.
By contrast, Teal graduated from the construction trades program at Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES. She lives in Marathon with her husband, Tom, who works with concrete for FAHS.
Women Build is a national program sponsored by Lowe’s home improvement center chain, which supplies the materials and tools.
“It’s not about having it segregated or excluding men, it’s to get them to learn in an atmosphere where they can be comfortable,” said Andi Baldwin, Women Build coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland Counties.
“We get a lot of women who say their husband, dad or brother was who did this — and they learn it’s fun and not hard to do,” Baldwin said.
The Ithaca-based chapter is also building a house in Lansing. It is seeking a family for the Homer house. Baldwin said usually a family is lined up before the construction begins, so family members can volunteer as the house is built.
“We’ve been catering to women in Tompkins County, but with the new Lowe’s opening here, we wanted to reach out in the Cortland area,” she said. The Lowe’s store in Cortlandville opened Friday.
Baldwin said Lowe’s will hold clinics for women later this fall.
As the sun beat down steadily Saturday, the volunteers — directed and aided by three female and two male supervisors from Women Build — cut the wood for the panels and assembled them, then loaded them on a trailer towed by a Paul Yaman Construction truck, to be brought to the site.
The panels were 8 feet long and 14 feet high.
The volunteers worked in morning and afternoon shifts, with about 20 women at each. The afternoon crew was about half members of the Crown City Rollerz roller derby team, wearing purple T-shirts with their jersey numbers on the back.
Jessica Teal goes by the name Motley Brues-her as a roller derby player. She came to the site with her teammates, but brought her own tools. Once the supervisors discovered her expertise, they asked her to supervise as well.
Baldwin said her organization plans to build two houses in Groton and one in Trumansburg next year. One of the Groton houses will be a Women Build house, meaning 85 percent of the volunteers will be women.
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