The volunteer labor is part of this week’s Women Build Event.
Habitat for Humanity of Kosciusko County Executive Director Ben Logan said on Tuesday, as well as on Thursday and Saturday, “We are having a week-long Women Build Event. We didn’t make this up, other Habitats do it, and we actually did it about 10 years ago a little bit differently, but this is just a week where we invited a lot of women from local businesses and churches and different groups to come on to the build site and kind of have their own special time to support other women who are going through the process.”
The woman who will be living at 625 N. Ellsworth St., once it’s completed, is Missy Francis, a single grandmother. “So we thought it was a good time to kind of have a Women Build to have that camaraderie among local women and her,” Logan said.
The Women Build Event is volunteer based, supported by sponsors. Lake City Bank is the lead sponsor, with other sponsors including Sym Financial Advisors, Kosciusko Board of Realtors, Flexaust, Builders Mart, Our Group Real Estate and Tri Kappa.
“It’s just kind of a fun time to – if they’ve never experienced the build site – this is just a great time to experience it,” Logan said.
Stacy Price, Lake City Bank vice president in financial planning and analysis and a Habitat for Humanity of Kosciusko County Board of Directors member, said Lake City Bank is always looking for ways to give back to the communities they live in.
“One of our core values is community, and so this was a good fit for us. So, Lake City Bank came in with the donation and the man hours, just so we could build some team and some community and help out here in Kosciusko County,” she said.
Francis said she initially applied for Habitat because she was trying to buy a mobile home that became a money pit with one problem after another. At that time, she also was participating in the Pathway of Hope at the Salvation Army with Envoy Ken Locke. Locke told her she should apply for Habitat but she responded that “someone needs it worse than me.”
After her water heater kept going out monthly, she decided to apply for Habitat. That was about six or seven years ago.
“I know the program, the way it works, it’s not a first-come, first-serve. It’s a as-needed basis, and at the time, I only had one child at home, but he’s now out on his own with his own family. And so there’s been other families who needed it worse than me at the time. So I’ve just had to take my turn and wait, but here we are though,” Francis said.
The groundbreaking for the home was in late March. The foundation work took about a month due to weather.
“But as soon as late April hit, we’ve just been having groups coming on and off. We’ve been moving, actually, about twice as fast as we used to. We used to build in nine months, now we’re doing it in about 4-1/2,” Logan said.
He said they hope to finish the home by sometime in August. Francis said that’s “beyond exciting. It’s taken a while to get to this point, but it’s just given me greater respect to see and not even three months yet, we’re at this point.”
Her birthday is Aug. 29. “What an expensive birthday gift I’ve gotten for myself,” Francis said with a laugh.
“It’s been going very fast. We’ve had a lot of good groups. A lot of people very eager to get out of the house after these last two years, so businesses are sending employees, churches are sending members and it’s just been a great time,” Logan said.
“This has been awesome,” Price said. “We are siding and part of the team is building a shed and part of the team is painting. And everybody that I’ve talked to is having a great time and they want to start a project at their own house.”
She said their group had six different bank departments represented.
“So I’m hoping they will go back to their departments, talk to their co-workers and we can get some more talkings around the bank and get more people involved,” Price said.
The group from Lake City Bank volunteered Tuesday morning, with groups from DePuy Synthes and Sym Financial Tuesday afternoon. On Thursday, Logan said there will be groups from the Kosciusko County Community Foundation, DePuy Synthes, Northeast Society of Women Engineers and Our Group Real Estate. Then on Saturday, there will be groups from Lake City Bank and Flexaust, as well as some miscellaneous individuals who made a team.
Logan said Habitat hopes to have a Women Build Event every year going forward. If anyone is interested in getting on the build site, whether it’s Women Build Week or not, he said they can go to the website at kosciuskohabitat.org and fill out a form to volunteer as an individual or group. There is a wait list for groups as there is a lot of demand currently to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
“We’re trying to work everyone in to this build, especially as we build all across the county, so we might be in Mentone, we might be in Claypool, we might be in Syracuse,” Logan said. “There’s also opportunities to sponsor a build. So this is chances for businesses to financially support a build, and they actually get build days for their employees that are reserved from other volunteers coming on site and it’s great team building. It’s a lot of fun. Almost every group we’ve had this season, they’ve come, had a great time and want to come back.”
No skills are required. Habitat for Humanity of Kosciusko County has a full-time construction manager, Dennis Judy. Judy and his volunteers teach volunteers everything they need to know, and Habitat has all the tools and expertise.
“All we need are bodies to show up and willing to learn and good attitudes. That’s all we can ask,” Logan said.
Francis said she’s learned a lot from the sweat equity she’s put into her home.
“I never realized how quickly things could move along. I just feel sometimes I blink my eyes and I’m like, ‘When did that get done?’ … All of these volunteers have been such a God-send, absolutely amazing with coming and helping and then I’ve tried to be here as much as I can also,” she said.
Price said, “Everybody I talked to said they would like to do this again. We’re having a blast. I think somebody already commented that there’s been more laughter than working. That is not true! Equal parts laughter and working.”
Habitat is still raising money for the Ellsworth build, he said. “Construction costs have been higher, as expected, and they keep creeping up. We do have to buy the supplies that our volunteers work with, so we’re still fundraising for this build and people can jump on our website to find out more,” Logan said.
Francis said her experience with Habitat has been “absolutely amazing. I have no complaints. It might have taken me a while to get to this point, but I knew it wasn’t an overnight occurrence. … And when people find out I’m a Habitat Partner Family, they’re like, ‘Tell me about it. How do I go about it?’ … And some people say, ‘It must be nice to get a free house.’ My house isn’t going to be free. That’s one of the biggest myths that people think when they hear Habitat, that it’s a free house being handed to somebody. No, not free at all. But it’s been amazing.”