Since 1991, the Women Build event has brought awareness to how the lack of safe and affordable housing has the largest impact on single mothers and their families. Within the last three decades, it has grown into an international event. Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s continue to partner this year, with the same mission: empowering women with the skills needed in repairing and building their own homes, while unifying communities in the process.
We had a great turn out this March at our Telegraph site, where the team laid decking for our first phase of homes–the initial eight units of our 54-unit townhome project. With their siding, windows and doors completed, these houses look almost ready to live in, and will be receiving their first families in 2020.
Support from Lowe’s has been integral in organizing the thousands of volunteers, in hundreds of communities around the United States, India and Canada. Along with their donations, Lowe’s employees have also mobilized in each of their respective communities, to provide able bodies to lend a hand in our construction sites. We’re incredibly grateful for their partnership.
Leading the Lowe’s team here in Whatcom County was Hildy Helgeson, the staffing and scheduling administrator at our local Lowe’s. “One of the things I really like about the company,” Hildy told us, “is that they allow us all to use give-back time. So everybody, full time, gets a certain amount of give-back time. And they pay us to go and volunteer wherever we like.”
These volunteer hours can be put towards sweat-equity to help our home buyers. “I was a little surprised when I first started working there.” she said, “at how many benefits there are, that serve not just us but the community.”
Additionally, it was an honor to have Bellingham Council Members Lisa Anderson, Hollie Huthman and Michael Lilliquist attend the event, where they discussed the unique challenges facing Bellingham’s housing shortages, and Habitat’s role in helping alleviate those problems.
Over the past year, the city has issued permits for 1,000 new permanent residential units. This is a step that Council Member Huthman described as, “Amazing, and much needed to start to catch up to the number of people living here.” However, she added, “A really important component to having new housing is affordability. To make sure that anybody who wants to move to Bellingham can find a place to live. And so I think Habitat and Kulshan Land Trust are hugely important in filling that need in our community.”
In a similar vein, Council Member Lilliquist added, “We have an entire range of housing challenges at different points along the affordability spectrum,” he said, “and we need a different solution at each point along that spectrum…without Habitat for Humanity, we’d be missing a gap, where you either don’t earn enough income or you earn too much income. We need a solution for every income and every family.”
Perhaps the highlight of the event was the incredible lunch prepared by Maggie Orozco-Valencia, one of our home buyers, and future residents of the first phase of the Telegraph Townhome Project. An amazing cook, Maggie prepared the hungry crew homemade tacos that we know will be talked about for weeks to come.
As a single mother, and while working multiple jobs to care for her children, Maggie was able to complete her sweat-equity hours with her daughter’s help, and will soon be able to move into her new home. “The joy I feel is overwhelming,” she said. “I’m so grateful to Habitat because as a single mom having my own home was never going to be a possibility.”
Women Build will continue later this year. Please stay tuned for future build dates and volunteer opportunities!