Nancy Doran has been volunteering at Habitat for Humanity for almost two decades, and she has no intention of stopping anytime soon.
“My husband retired and he was good with his hands, so we signed up and here we are,” Doran recalled on an early Saturday morning in Long Branch. “I have met the best people in the world because they want to be here. It’s great to see that we make a difference.”
Doran, a former Habitat for Humanity in Monmouth County board president, is one of approximately 100 local volunteers who signed on for National Women Build Week, a nationwide partnership between nonprofit housing organization Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s home improvement store that brings women together for a week of building and goodwill.
More than 18,000 women nationwide have taken part in the initiative since its inception in 2008.
“It’s just a real high-impact program,” HFHMC Executive Director Diane Kinnane told NJBIZ. “There’s a lot of momentum. It’s about empowering women, advocating for affordable housing and learning construction skills. We want to engage women of all skill levels to join their friends, families and neighbors to build up their communities and volunteer.”
Since the launch of its national partnership with HFH in 2003, Lowe’s has committed more than $63 million and assisted nearly 6,500 families.
“Lowe’s is proud to sponsor National Women Build Week to educate, inspire and empower women to volunteer alongside other women in their community to address the critical issue of affordable housing,” Lowe’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Colleen Penhall told NJBIZ. “We know women working together are an unstoppable force for creating meaningful change in our communities. Together with Habitat, our Lowe’s Heroes volunteers and women nationwide, National Women Build Week will provide valuable support to advance accessible housing in the communities where we all live and work.”
Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider lauded the volunteers at the launch ceremony for the build initiative.
“The impact that Habitat has made in this city is wonderful,” he said.
HFHMC Board President Kate Nelson joined the affiliate as a volunteer coordinator in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“It was so rewarding,” Nelson said. “I saw so much tragedy and hope in the aftermath. We believe that everyone in the world should have a decent place to live and that’s what inspires us.”
Since then, HFHMC has built 12 houses and renovated 125.
HFHMC board secretary Lia Papamarkou is involved in both local and international Habitat initiatives.
“I love Habitat for what we do locally and internationally,” she said. “I think it’s important to let women know they are capable. It breaks down barriers and some of that stigma. People get on the site and meet the homeowners and that ties it all together. It’s that overall feeling and we are giving that opportunity to everyone. It allows women to feel more connected to that type of work.”
For longtime volunteer Barb Anderson, it all comes down to a return to normalcy.
“I just fell in love with the whole idea of getting people back in their houses,” Anderson said. “We go from having a house built to having people in it. It’s such a great feeling to get people back in their house and back on their feet again. The people are wonderful and you’re giving back and getting so much in return.”