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All-women crew building house for single mom

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Piece by piece, the group of 20 women measured, sawed and hammered together what would become a local family’s home.

Dressed in pink T-shirts, with pink tool belts and hardhats, they practiced making cuts in lumber using a circular saw. Others hammered the cut wood together into a ladder-like lattice that would make up the wall.

The work was part of a training session conducted by Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County. These women, and more than 200 others, will be part of a special construction project planned for this fall.

For the 12th house Habitat for Humanity will build, the entire workforce is women. They’ll lay down the flooring, carry the lumber and use power tools to put the home together.

Though overseen by experienced contractors, the focus will be on empowering local women to work together, put in the work and construct a home for a family in need.

“I’m so proud of this build and so proud of these women. They have far exceeded everyone’s expectations,” said Lee Ann Wilbur, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County. “This is the craziest, most enthusiastic thing I’ve been involved in.”

Habitat for Humanity builds houses and sells them to families who otherwise could not afford one. The new owners receive a 20-year, interest-free mortgage for the house and are responsible for monthly mortgage payments, which typically come out to about $350 per month.

New owners also are asked to put down $700 on the house to help cover closing costs. Families also take financial classes and pay “sweat equity,” 300 hours of volunteer labor on their home and other Habitat and community projects.

This most recent house, which will be built at 250 W. Adams St. in Franklin, will go to a single mother with two daughters. The build will start in mid-September and will be finished in October.

The women’s build is a concept that has been used in other Habitat for Humanity organizations throughout the country.

Bloomington’s chapter does two all-female projects each year and has a waiting list to be involved.

The success of that and similar campaigns inspired Johnson County women to put together their own build.

“There’s an excitement level over this build that dwarfs anything we’ve done before. They grab hold of the concept, and they run with it,” said Doug Grant, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer and former board member. “There’s an enthusiasm with a women’s build that is hard to match. We knew there was a great deal of excitement in the community (and people) who wanted to do this.”

Organizers have lined up 240 women to participate and recruited 12 team leaders from local businesses and groups such as MainSource Bank and Franklin College.

Mutual Savings Bank formed a team of its own, using a bake sale, jeans days at work and a parking lot sale to raise more than $7,800.

“We know Habitat for Humanity is such a good charity. There’s the need to help people, and who doesn’t want someone to have a house? If we can do something to help someone to have a place to live, we want to get involved with that,” team leader Kim Childers said.

Teams have raised about $75,000 so far, the most that has ever been generated for a Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County build, Wilbur said. They’ve had bake sales, spa days and sold candles.

Participants have sold pink paper houses that supporters can display, indicating that they have helped with the effort.

“They jumped all over it. The women in Johnson County have embraced this. I’ve even had women come up to me saying they know women who couldn’t get into this one who are dying to do this,” Wilbur said.

Before the construction starts, the women participating have attended training sessions on Saturday mornings. Representatives from the local Lowe’s store give basic information on construction.

Not all are comfortable with a hammer or a drill in their hands, Wilbur said. But they soon get to be.

“The ladies come in, and at the beginning, we’re talking about blueprints or other things. The look on their faces is like, ‘What have we gotten involved with?’” Wilbur said. “But when we go through it, you can see them light up. By the end, they’re sawing and taking chunks of wood home to show their husbands.”

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