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Women are raising the roof

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Tap, tap, tap.

Amber Smith hammered the nails into the roof’s edging.

She held the nails steady with perfectly manicured hands with glossy, hot-pink fingernails.

Habitat for Humanity site supervisor Amber Smith installs a drip edge on a home along Blizzard Court in the Lake Arrowhead subdivision in Stafford County. (PETER CIHELKA / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Habitat for Humanity site supervisor Amber Smith installs a drip edge on a home along Blizzard Court in the Lake Arrowhead subdivision in Stafford County. (PETER CIHELKA / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

“I get a manicure every two weeks because I don’t want man hands,” Smith laughed.

She splurges on pricey manicures because her hands go through a lot as she oversees construction of a new home in Stafford County’s Lake Arrowhead subdivision.

The home—expected to be finished in September—is the first project of the Women Build of the Greater Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity.

The group formed in May 2013 as a way to get more women involved in the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for low-income residents. Families who get Habitat houses must volunteer at least 500 hours with the organization and pay a zero-interest mortgage on the home.

At least 75 percent of the work on this house—from fundraising to administrative work to actual construction—is performed by women.

Last year, volunteers spearheaded efforts to raise money and to get local businesses involved in the build. This April, volunteers broke ground on the four-bedroom home.

Habitat for Humanity volunteer Gillian Spicer  and site supervisor Amber Smith install a drip edge on the roof.  (PETER CIHELKA / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Habitat for Humanity volunteer Gillian Spicer and site supervisor Amber Smith install a drip edge on the roof.

(PETER CIHELKA / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

Construction is on track to end in September, said Jason Tickle, director of operations for the Greater Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity.

“This will be the quickest build we’ve ever done,” he said.

He credited the volunteers’ enthusiasm—and a new model of getting local businesses involved in the building process. The businesses—realty groups, home improvement stores and others—are arranging for their own build days, when they send about a dozen or so volunteers to the site.

That’s a model that local Habitat leaders plan to continue, even after the last shingle is nailed to the roof of this home.

Habitat plans to build 20 homes between now and 2020, Tickle said. Thus far, the agency has averaged about one home per year.

A great deal of the credit for the new momentum goes to the women and their enthusiasm, said volunteer Debbie Kindig.

“I think women like to look at something like building a house and to feel like, ‘Hey, we can do this, too,’” she said.

Volunteer Gillian Spicer stopped by Friday for the first time, hoping to pick up tricks of the construction trade while helping others.

“I have a dream of building my own house one day,” she said.

The women have made the Habitat projects their own, adding feminine touches like a logo that includes a hammer and daisies. “Girls play house, women build them,” a T-shirt reads.

(PETER CIHELKA / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

(PETER CIHELKA / THE FREE LANCE-STAR)

The shed is filled with bright-pink hard hats for volunteers. Recycling containers sport graphics of high heels and hammers.

Some women first learned home construction techniques by volunteering on a Habitat home last year.

Smith said that she initially had little construction experience when she started with Habitat but that she was determined to learn.

“My dad was a builder, and I asked a lot of questions,” she said as she measured the roof’s edging. “And I do a lot of reading.”

Amy Umble: 540/735-1973

aumble@freelancestar.com

WANT TO HELP?

To learn more, to volunteer or to donate, go online to fredhab.org, email admin@fredhab.org or call 540/891-5009.

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