For Judy Miller, participating in the Aiken County Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program is an adventure.
“I was afraid of a nail gun, but I learned how to use one,” she said proudly. “When I was growing up, my dad had me do lots of mechanical things, so I was comfortable with a hammer and nails. But using a nail gun was a new skill that I picked up.”
Afterward, Miller remembered with a smile, “I told my husband, ‘Watch out, don’t mess with me anymore.’”
Miller attended the groundbreaking ceremony on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Warrenville for Women Build’s seventh home construction project in Aiken County. Joining her were Richard Church, executive director of the Aiken County Habitat for Humanity, and local Women Build Committee Co-Chairs Linda Purdy and Judy Sennett.
Also on hand was Debrea Bates, who will be the home’s new owner. She participated in an earlier Women Build project and will help construct her own house. Following its completion, Habitat will sell the home to her at cost and she will make payments on a no-interest mortgage.
“She’s a terrific young woman,” Miller said. “To help someone like her better her life is very empowering.”
Bates, who has worked for nine years at Building Blocks Child Development Center, has four children: Desmond Bates, 13; De’Asia Mickens, 12; Deonta “DJ” Mickens, 11; and Jaylen Walker, 4. They also attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
“Right now, we live in an apartment complex,” Debrea Bates said. “This house will be mine, and it will be a better place for me to raise my kids. I’m happy that we’re going to have our own place. The kids are excited.”
Desmond Bates said he is looking forward to moving out of the apartment complex because of “the fighting and stuff’ that goes on there. In a new house, “there won’t be a lot of drama,” he said.
“I don’t like where I live now,” De’Asia Mickens said. “It’s messed up.”
The seventh Women Build house will have four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Its foundation is already in place and the Women Build volunteers will begin their work on the home on March 1. They expect to complete construction by the end of June, according to Purdy.
“Obviously, you can see the ground already has been broken, so this is a ceremonial groundbreaking today,” she said. “Male ‘super-advisers’ will assist us with the build, but the majority of construction will be done by women.”
Between 50 and 60 women are expected to participate. Many have attended clinics conducted at Lowe’s in Aiken to learn how to perform various construction tasks. Lowe’s is a major sponsor and underwriter of Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program.
“What I really like about Women Build is that our men advisers actually let us work on the houses,” said Carolyn Heffner, who attended the groundbreaking and has helped construct five previous Women Build homes. “If you work on a regular Habitat house, the men let the women carry things, but they don’t want to let them do the real work. Women might not be as fast as the men, but they’re careful, and their houses are just as good as the ones the men build.”
The latest Women Build house will be the 91st house overall constructed by the Aiken County Habitat affiliate. The affiliate is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2013. It was founded in 1988. The Aiken County Women Build program started in 2006.
“We consider each house a special celebration and a special step in reaching into the community with a significant impact,” Church said. “We start it with a groundbreaking and we end it with a dedication.”
Women interested in getting involved with the Women Build program can find more information and register on the Aiken County Habitat website www.habitataiken.org. They also can call Purdy at 270-6968 or Sennett at 644-8814.