By Suzanne Kidd
It’s Saturday, May 13th… “Build Day” for the Habitat Women Build group.
You weren’t able to be there? Sorry for that! Nevertheless, we the Mermaids Team, wanted you to share in our Habitat Women Build experience anyway. Maybe, “seeing” the day through our eyes will stir your heart to join us when we do it all again next year.
After months of fundraising events and over $8000 raised, close to 6% of the nearly $143,000 total, Team Mermaids’ “build day” is finally here. Not too hot, overcast skies…in short, great weather for building on Nichole’s and Tianna’s homes. We arrive at the site on 13th at Highland Ave. about 11:30 am for our noon-to-four shift, sign in, give Kelly our safety waiver forms, put on our purple Women Build 2017 tee shirts and white hard hats. We’re READY!
But first, lunch with the morning-build team. The wonderful women of Apopka’s Fountain of Life Baptist Church have prepared tasty box lunches for us and the ladies of Team W.O.W. (Women of Worth) who built during the morning shift. We watch in admiration as Minerva and her crew put down their tools and slowly make their way over to join us on the lumber pile. They look hot and tired, a tribute to the hard work they’ve put in constructing walls since eight o’clock. But those satisfied grins say it’s all been worthwhile. We eat quietly, listening to their construction adventures and wonder silently if we’ll match their accomplishments by day’s end.
Not to worry, says Andy, our cute, twenty-something site supervisor. He’ll teach us. He outfits us with tool pouches and safety goggles, puts us in small teams, gives us that “safety guidelines” talk, then explains each team’s duties. Nikki and Darbee, along with homeowner Tianna, get the “pleasure” of rebuilding an outside wall made too tall. “Knock it out,” Andy says, “remove the nails, send the studs to the saw for shortening, then nail it all back together.” Darbee, who hasn’t used a hammer since junior high, quickly develops skill in pounding nails into hard, pressure-treated lumber “without bending the h**l out of them” she proudly recounts. Anita, Francine, and Martha were our “ladder ladies”, nailing top plates along exterior walls, eight feet up from the slab. Kerry and I were the “measure twice, cut once” team. Using measuring tape, square and power saw, we cut 2x4s, 2x6s and 2x12s into studs, top plates, cripple studs and headers. That’s construction talk ‘ya know! And tiny Zenia was “the clean-up woman”, picking up lumber scraps in trip after trip across the site to throw them in the dumpster. She told Andy she wanted exercise and boy did she get it!
Pretty soon we were humming along like a well-oiled machine. Halfway through our shift, and making real progress, we were stopped cold by another female, “Mother Nature” who decided, at that exact moment, to “gift” us with the first real rain in months. “Lightning’s not far off” Andy warns. “Can’t operate the generator and power saw in the rain…too dangerous. We’ll have to shut it down for the day.” Groans all around, disappointment runs high. We thought we’d have finished framing out Nichole’s large windows. We had hoped to reset that wall Nikki’s team had resized. But on this day, it wasn’t to be. We realized with dawning clarity why it takes so long to build a Habitat home. Why Habitat homeowners must have the patience of the biblical Job. After years of personal adversity, after putting in hundreds of hours of sweat equity, their dream of home ownership so close at hand, now they must endure the whims of weather and the uncertain participation of volunteer labor. Yet, like Nichole and Tianna, they soldier on, side by side with their volunteers, uncomplaining, ever-smiling, just glad the process is finally underway. Like I mentioned–the patience of Job!
Every Mermaid on the site told me later that their greatest joy was working alongside the amazing women whose families will soon live in these homes. We embraced the physical work of lifting and hammering and sawing, a welcome diversion from our normal routines, out of love for and admiration of these women, who, despite incredibly challenging life circumstances, continue to face the future with joy and gratitude in their hearts. Thanks to Women Build we were able to partner with other Apopka women who shared our passion for helping families improve the prospects for their families. We knew our efforts would be one more step in making Apopka the welcoming, inclusive community we claim so proudly.
So, to all of you who weren’t building with us this time, the Mermaids would like you to remember that our new Habitat community has 56 more homes for you to help build, homes for 56 hard working, deserving families. No home begins construction until the money to pay for it is “in the bank”. Even though women Build is over for 2017, the need for individual donations and corporate sponsorships remains. If you can help, contact Kelly Pisciotta, Associate Director at Habitat Seminole-Apopka at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-696-5855 ext. 2101. And watch for Women Build 2018 next spring. You too can be a “Mermaid”!
Suzanne Kidd is a former 30-year public school educator and design professional. During her sixteen years as an Apopka resident, she has been an active participant in her homeowners’ association and Apopka civic affairs, attending City Council and Planning Commission meetings and serving on several City committees, most recently chairing the City’s Visioning Steering Committee. She is currently involved with Habitat for Humanity in bringing affordable housing to Apopka.