By Betsy Warren
Question: What time is it when power tools, social justice, hands-on activism, dancing, laughing, learning, and hundreds of Buncombe County women come together?
Answer: It’s time for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity’s WOMEN BUILD!!!
Women Build is much more than a Habitat house. Like all Habitat homes, the Women Build House is built by a loving community of donors, staff, and volunteers in partnership with hard-working homebuyers. Underneath the 2x4s, nails, and shingles lies the passionate, unwavering conviction that everyone deserves a decent place to live, and that everyone – every woman – can do something about it.
Women Build is a project of Habitat for Humanity International with the goal of helping Habitat affiliates recruit, educate and nurture women to build – and advocate for –affordable houses in their communities.
Asheville Area Habitat’s first Women Build house was completed in 1994. Since then, our Women Build program has taken root and grown wings: this year’s Women Build house is Asheville Area Habitat’s 14th!
A team of dedicated volunteers affectionately known as the “WomBATs” (Women Build Advocacy Team) leads the project each year, helping Habitat recruit over 300 volunteers and raise $55,000 to build the house.
As a retired Asheville Habitat staffer and current WomBAT, I have happily agreed to answer some questions about Women Build:
Q: You mentioned that Habitat volunteers and donors work in partnership with a homebuyer. Why “homebuyer?” Doesn’t Habitat give homes away?
A: NO, we do not give homes away. Asheville Habitat builds affordable, energy-efficient 2, 3 and 4-bedroom homes that are sold to qualifying buyers who repay an affordable mortgage. That’s why we say Habitat is a hand up, not a handout.
Q: How does someone qualify to purchase a home?
A: Homebuyers qualify based on residency (legal U.S. residents who have lived or worked in Buncombe County for at least 12 months); need (living in substandard or over-crowded conditions, for example); willingness to partner (applicants complete at least 200 hours of sweat equity and homebuyer education); and ability to pay (applicants have good credit and a stable income that falls below 70% of Area Median Income – details about income and credit qualifications can be at www.ashevillehabitat.org).
Q: So the person or family that purchases the Women Build house has met the qualifications and agreed to partner with Habitat. How are they partners?
A: Habitat homebuyers help with building, fundraising, and advocacy. Anywhere you see some Women Build-ers working or playing together, you’re apt to find the homebuyer working right along with us.
Q: Where will the 2019 Women Build house be built?
A: It will be built at Curry Court, our new neighborhood in Candler. And it will be one of our first townhomes! It breaks ground on May 7th.
Q: A townhome? Why?
A: As the Asheville area continues to rapidly grow, we face challenges in terms of affordability, available land, and living wage. Building a mix of housing types more fully addresses our region’s housing needs, offers choice to buyers, maximizes land use, and is a more sustainable approach in the face of these challenges. By building 4 single-family homes and 8 townhomes, we increased the number of families we can serve in that neighborhood by 20%.
Q: Does Women Build allow only women volunteers?
A: No – Women Build is not about excluding men. It’s about including women, encouraging them to become Habitat volunteers by creating a comfortable environment for women to work on a construction site. First-time Women Build-ers often becoming weekly “core volunteers” for Habitat.
Q: How can I volunteer on the 2019 Women Build house?
A: WB e-news subscribers are the first to hear about Women Build volunteer opportunities. So sign up for the Women Build e-newsletter by visiting ashevillehabitat.org. Click the blue e-news sign up button at the bottom of the page. Pro-tip: as soon as you receive the e-newsletter calling for volunteers, SIGN UP! Slots fill quickly.
Q: What is Rock the House? I’ve heard rumors about a Women Build fundraising dance and sing-along party?
A: Rock the House is a rollicking good time, officially kicking off the upcoming Women Build. Our goal is to raise $7,000 for Women Build, by dancing, singing and donating along to well-known tunes from the 60s and 70s. A band called the Flashbacks leads the fun, projecting the words to each song on a screen so everyone can sing. This year’s Rock the House will be held on Saturday, March 23rd in Trinity Episcopal Church’s Tuton Hall. You can secure your free ticket here.
Q: So I can sign up to volunteer, and I can dance and donate at Rock the House. How else can I help?
A: The fundraising goal for Women Build is $55,000. We need and welcome any and all donations. To donate online, visit Asheville Habitat’s website (www.ashevillehabitat.org) and click on the Donate button. Be sure to select Women Build in the “area of interest” dropdown box. Or you can mail a check with Women Build on the memo line to Asheville Area Habitat, 33 Meadow Rd, Asheville, NC 28803. Or contact Beth Russo (firstname.lastname@example.org) about a Blueprint sponsorship for your business, book club, or your birthday celebration – a $1,000 donation that comes with signage and a day of volunteering for your group.