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Rahel Solomon via Many Eyes/MEDILL

This graphic shows Tuesday tweets about Habitat for Humanity's #WomenBuild campaign. Words that are larger appeared more frequently.

Women wield hammers and saws as part of national housing campaign

by Rahel Solomon
May 08, 2012

Men aren’t the only ones picking up their tool belts to build homes this week; as part of Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build week, women across the country are also joining in, giving back and building homes.

Habitat for Humanity Chicago South Suburbs kicked off National Women Build Week with construction Tuesday of a Park Forest home.

The national campaign encourages women to devote one day to help eliminate poverty housing. Habitat is not-for-profit that builds and rehabs decent affordable housing for low-income families. Home improvement company Lowes sponsors the campaign, now in its fifth year.

“What we really want to do is encourage [women] to come pick up a hammer, come build a house and really give back to your community,” said Lowes spokeswoman Stacey Lentz.

National Women Build Week normally takes place the week leading up to Mother’s Day, which is Sunday.

Though men are welcome to participate, the campaign is geared toward women. Recent statistics show women disproportionately suffer from poverty. In 2010 more than 4 million more women than men lived in poverty, according to the National Center for Law and Economic Justice,.

“A lot of women -- even though they’re out there and working-- in Chicago the rentals are getting more expensive,” said Jennifer Parks, executive director of Windy City Habitat for Humanity, another local Chicago Habitat for Humanity. “To afford a place for your family is becoming more difficult.”

That’s where Women Build comes in. Parks said many of Habitat for Humanity’s homes are built for female head of households, and while women are encouraged to build, they don’t have to get their nails dirty to help. Women can also help with training, travel or office support.

“We really encourage women to come together as a group, as a relationship builder,” said Terrhonda Hudson, resource development coordinator for South Suburbs Habitat for Humanity.

Construction at the Park Forest home at 329 Merrimac St. is expected to continue through Saturday. The home is one of several foreclosed properties that Habitat for Humanity has been buying and rehabilitating. The rehabbing is done by volunteers, then the home is made available to a needy family that agrees to make a below-market down payment and monthly mortgage payments.

Those interested in participating in local events can contact Hudson at 708-756-2015.

“We are seeing more and more women feel confident to go out there and build. I’m going to go do that myself,” said Lentz. “It’s great to feel empowered as a female. I feel empowered to go out there and pick up a hammer.”