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Calling All Women 

1,000 volunteers wanted to build three Habitat houses

Take a seat boys, women from all over Charlotte will soon be strapping on tool belts and donning hard harts as they set out to build homes for needy families. Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte is sponsoring Charlotte's Women Build as part of a nationwide effort that focuses on women's ability to transform children's lives and address the fact that more than 12 million children in the US are living in poverty. The overall strategy of the Charlotte's Women Build project is to build three houses from October 26 to November 2, and have families moved in by the holidays. An open invitation stands to all Charlotte women to participate in the construction process regardless of whether they've ever picked up a hammer.

Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte was the first affiliate in the nation to have a home constructed completely by women in 1991. Since then, all-women crews have built more than 350 homes within the US. And this year, Charlotte's Women Build is looking to set another milestone. Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte has been building homes in the Queen City since 1983. In May, they completed construction on their 500th home, meaning 500 Charlotte residents now have decent, affordable shelter -- including Darlene Baker.

"It was always in my heart to own a home and still be able to live and work in the inner city," she said. As part of Habitat's eligibility requirements, Baker had to put in at least 250 hours of "sweat equity." She started working at Habitat construction sites around the city, and after about a year, moved into her own home last September. "It was the hardest work I've ever done in my life, but it was well worth it," Baker said. "I'm so happy. It was really humbling to have people from all over the city come and help me work on my home. I met some wonderful people and made some great friends. It was a tremendous experience." Baker is now executive director of PowerTeam, a children's inner-city ministry.

Nationally, women make up 50 percent of Habitat's volunteer force, and about 50 percent of the Habitat homes are built for women heads of household. Yet because of a lack of training, women account for less than 15 percent of work on the construction site. These women are often dependent upon the goodwill of neighbors, friends and relatives for even minor repairs. Projects like Charlotte's Women Build provide an environment in which women can feel comfortable obtaining skills they might not otherwise have a chance to learn, and become better equipped to maintain their homes and cope with day-to-day situations.

A general meeting about Charlotte Women Build will be held at the Plaza Presbyterian Church August 15 at 6pm. To volunteer, donate funds, or find out more about Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte, go to www.habitatcharlotte.org. Or you may call Meg Robertson at (704)376-2054 ext. 32.

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