May 8, 2010 10:18:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
"Window! We''ve got a window coming up!" The shout is heard above bursts from a nail gun and the buzz of power saws. Everyone makes way for a trio of women in bright red Habitat for Humanity T-shirts, transporting yet another finished window frame. They hoist it up to volunteers on the second floor level, one more step in turning piles of lumber into a home for a displaced family of six.
"A lot of people don''t think ladies can do this type of stuff, but we''re proving that wrong," smiled Tracy Tate of Columbus. The 23-year-old Mississippi State University senior and her mother, Bessie Tate, are one of several mother/daughter duos among more than 60 volunteers who worked on the third annual Lowndes County Habitat for Humanity Women Build Tuesday. Throughout the week, female constructions crews across the country took part in Habitat''s National Women Build Week, an annual event in partnership with Lowe''s.
"I''d read about this, and I''ve always wanted to do it," said Bessie, who is employed with Weyerhaueser Timberlands. Together, she and Tracy helped frame exterior walls for the 1,280 square foot, four-bedroom structure that will replace Michael and Lisa Lang''s house, which burned Jan. 8. The Langs and their four children have been living in a small apartment. When Lisa got the news Habitat for Humanity would partner with them to help build a new home, the Columbus Police Department deputy court clerk wept.
"I cried. I got very emotional," she admitted. "We didn''t know where we were headed ... but we can see our future now, and we thank God for that."
That her mother-in-law, Ada Conner, worked alongside her Tuesday adds special meaning to the sweat equity Lisa and her family are putting in the house, which is sponsored by First United Methodist Church.
They''re touched by the unselfish volunteerism from so many people they don''t even know. Most share Bessie and Tracy''s simple motives: "To help someone."
Bessie recalled, "When we were growing up, the neighborhood would just come together and help when anyone needed it. This reminds me of that."
Her daughter has learned the lessons well from her mom. "It''s our job to help those who need it," Tracy added.
A hand up, not a handout
Kathy Arinder is executive director of Lowndes County Habitat for Humanity. Her daughter, Lauren, 24, was on hand Tuesday to work with her.
"Our mission statement says Habitat for Humanity works in partnership with God and people everywhere, from all walks of life, to develop communities by building and renovating houses so that there are decent homes in decent communities, in which every person can experience God''s love and can live and grow into all that God intends," Kathy said.
She continued, "Our partner families are hardworking people who, for whatever reason, cannot quality for a traditional mortgage and are living in substandard housing."
Each family has to qualify for their home and must be able to make a monthly payment of between $375 and $425, Kathy explained.
"Habitat homes are built with volunteer labor and some donated materials," she went on. "We then sell the homes to the partner family and finance it, interest free, for a period of 15-20 years." Homeowners also attend a 13-week Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course to help prepare them for home ownership and financial management.
The Lang house is being built on pillars, to accommodate flood zoning. The site, owned by the family, has been cleared of the ashen debris left by fierce flames. Harsh memories are gradually being replaced by brighter ones. Kathy hopes the work which began April 24 on the house will be completed by August or September. If Tuesday''s progress is anything to go by, prospects are good. All the exterior walls, as well as some of the interior walls, were erected, thanks to industrious volunteers and their crew chiefs.
Kathy''s tireless commitment to the Habitat mission has made a lasting impression on her daughter,
"My mother''s really inspirational to me. I see her out here every Saturday morning, with a hammer in her hand," said Lauren, who received her masters from Mississippi University for Women Saturday. "She''s really a great role model."
From Kathy''s viewpoint, "This Women Build was very special to me because my daughter was able to come out and be part of it for the very first time. I know I won''t have many more opportunities to do things like this with her because she''s graduating and starting her career."
As the noon hour approached Tuesday, volunteers began gathering under an ample shade tree, lured by tempting aromas of hamburgers and hot dogs cooking on a grill tended by Lee Burdine and Mike Quinn. The camaraderie is palpable, the fulfillment evident.
Why are women -- mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, grandmothers --so drawn to a project like the Women Build?
"Because it''s a home ... " answered Habitat board member Linda Bobbitt, working at the registration table. "Even if you can''t hammer a nail, you can do something ... "
To learn how to get involved, contact the Lowndes Habitat office at 662-329-2501, the Oktibbeha County office at 662-324-7008, or the Clay County office at 662-494-7667.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.