Andrew Dys

Women swing hammers to build Rock Hill Habitat home

In what will be a living room, a receptionist and a production planner, a banker and a homemaker, swung hammers.

Next door, in what will be a bedroom, two businesswomen pounded away like old pros.

Other women fired up the power saw, slung framing wood like lumberjacks and cracked jokes.

A normal construction site – except the hard hats were almost all pink.

Almost all the workers were women, and everybody was a volunteer.

The side-by-side homes on Crawford Road in Rock Hill are Habitat for Humanity houses that will be finished in late summer, providing home ownership and pride to two families with six kids between them.

One is sponsored by Thrivent Financial, the other by Oakland Baptist Church.

Habitat is a non-profit ecumenical housing ministry that builds all over the United States. Money for the program, which helps lower income people become homeowners, comes form corporate, civic, faith-based and individual donations, said Crystal McClung, resource development coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of York County.

In recent years, women have joined into the volunteer army that builds the homes. Trained carpenters and builders, most of them guys, provide help, advice and technical expertise – just as they would for male volunteers – but the women pound, cut and build.

Wednesday was “Women Build Workday,” part of Habitat’s national “Women Build Week.”

Right there in the mix was one of the homeowners herself, Jennifer Johnson. She swung a hammer like everybody else, because Habitat ownership requires hundreds of hours of “sweat equity.”

Habitat homeowners have a mortgage like anybody else. It is the building of the home where the help comes in. Habitat has built more than 40 houses in York County.

“I appreciate so much all these people helping me achieve this dream of owning a home, and the pride that comes with it for me and my sons,” Johnson said.

The houses are being built from the ground up, and Wednesday was wall-raising day. Almost 30 women worked to nail the timbers together into wall frames.

There were Baptists working alongside Muslims, and just about everybody in between. All shared in the labor.

That receptionist on most days of her life, Karen Rescigno, was proud to help build a home for someone. The production planner, Carol Parise, is a longtime do-it-yourselfer and was thrilled to put her skills to use.

“In life, you pass on what you know, what you learn, and give to the next person,” Parise said.

Homemaker Jacquie Shakir, a mother and grandmother, said helping others become homeowners is part of making sure other women have a chance to succeed in life.

That banker with a hammer, Angie Simpson, has worked on Habitat homes in several states and said she has seen the program succeed.

When the time came to raise the newly framed walls, all these women who had been hammering and sawing jumped into the fray together to literally “raise the wall.”

Up it came, with dozens of pairs of hands, and the frame was pushed and kicked and then hammered into the spot it will stay for a long, long time.

The ladies cackled and yelled and pounded. It sounded just like a bunch of male carpenters framing a house – with a higher-pitched gaggle of voices and a few laborers wearing nail polish.