Moms empower one another at Habitat for Humanity event

May 10, 2011

By Brittney Wong

Houses being built for — and mostly by — women took shape at Issaquah Highlands over the Mother’s Day weekend.

Jahna Smith (left) and Fanessa Ard (right), two Habitat homeowners living in Newcastle, and volunteer Angie Ulrich (middle), of Seattle, a longtime Habitat volunteer in Minnesota before moving to the Northwest, complete an exterior wall to be raised on the Magnolia Village Habitat project May 6 in Issaquah Highlands. By Greg Farrar

Several dozen people — the vast majority of them women — raised walls for one two-unit town house and did finish work on four other units through the Women Build event organized by Habitat for Humanity of East King County.

The goal was to empower women while furthering the cause of affordable housing.

“When you think of the construction industry, you think it’s sort of a man’s world,” said Jodi Marmion, a Habitat spokeswoman. “We want to show through Women Build that isn’t necessarily true.”

Builders included volunteers, AmeriCorps members, Habitat staff members and Habitat homeowners.

About 45 percent of homeowners who acquire homes through Habitat’s East King County affiliate are single mothers, Marmion said. Organizers wanted to highlight their stories at the event, and invited four mothers to speak to volunteers.

Lola Reyes, 37, is a single mother who, in October, moved into a Habitat home that had been built earlier in the same area of the highlands. Reyes works full time while attending graduate school and could not afford to buy a home on her own.

When she and her sons moved into the home, “it almost felt like we were on vacation,” she said. “It didn’t really feel like ours. It felt like we rented a condo resort.”

The East King County affiliate, founded in 1988, has built more than 100 Habitat homes. This is the fourth year in a row that Habitat for Humanity International, in partnership with Lowe’s, selected the organization for a Women Build grant. The grant goes to about 200 affiliates annually to sponsor local builds.

The homes must be built according to certain environmental standards, such as having proper insulation, which is more sustainable and will help homeowners save money on utilities, Marmion said.

She said the affiliate plans to apply for the grant again.

“When something is so great of a program and touches people’s lives so personally, it’s just life-transforming,” Reyes said. “It’s too much for me. I don’t know how to articulate it.”

Brittney Wong: 206-464-3195 or Comment at

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