We’re at the tail end of Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week. The event, which officially takes place May 2 – 10, 2015, is now in its eighth year.
Lowe’s has supported Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program since 2004 and helped launch National Women Build Week in 2008. In addition to providing “Lowe’s Heroes” to volunteer for local projects, they also hold free how-to clinics to teach volunteers construction skills. According to a press release, Lowe’s has committed more than $63 million and helped more than 4,000 Habitat families improve their living conditions since its partnership with Habitat began in 2003.
This year’s National Women Build Week event brings together more than 15,000 women from across the US to devote at least one day during the week to help build affordable housing in their local communities. You may recall past posts about this event on the blog. Though I wasn’t able to build this year, I have in the past.
Another purpose of National Women Build Week is to bring awareness of the homeownership challenges faced by women. I had the opportunity to interview a woman name Maria Torres-Leon, a single mother of four children that span the ages of 8 – 25.
Maria was determined to find a stable home for her family after courageously overcoming both breast cancer and domestic violence. She and her family currently live in a three-bedroom apartment that requires more than 30% of her income for rent. Her current apartment is also not ADA compliant, which makes it difficult for Maria to care for her 23-year-old son who was born with infantile cerebral palsy.
On Tuesday, April 28, Maria got to experience the beginning of the construction of her future home thanks to Habitat for Humanity Orlando. Maria told me she hardly slept the night before and cried as the framing went up on her house. She worked hard to get to a place where she could own her own home and she was thankful for the blessings in her life.
Maria was determined to find affordable housing for her family and did her research. She came across Habitat for Humanity, went to an orientation and started to put the sweat equity required to get approval for a home loan. Habitat helped her finalize a divorce to her estranged husband who was deported due to his violence against Maria. Maria also attended classes on home ownership and volunteered at Habitat Orlando’s offices, often during her lunch break at work.
Putting in 300 hours of sweat equity as a single mom working a full-time job was not easy, but Maria was determined to keep moving forward. She told me that “I can’t” was not a phrase allowed in her household. Even her children were involved in working towards home ownership, keeping their grades up so that Habitat would see everyone was serious about a home.
After a lot of hard work and education, Maria was approved for her home loan from Habitat for Humanity in May of 2014. Maria’s home is being built in a 59 home development community called Butler’s Preserve. Her 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom home will be ready to be lived in after about four months of construction.
Maria will have to pay her long-term, 0 interest mortgage just like any other homeowner. Habitat for Humanity is her lender and builder. Habitat provides ongoing classes that range in topic from couponing to domestic violence. Maria will also have neighbors who have gone through the same process to utilize for support once she moves in.
Maria’s advice for women looking to own their own home is to have faith and determination. She says Habitat doesn’t just give homes to people. You have to work for it. She encourages women to start the process by calling their local Habitat for Humanity and putting things into motion. Stick through the process and make it happen.
Have you ever helped build a Habitat for Humanity home?
Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. Read past stories here.