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Habitat for Humanity to hold second 'Women Build'

Building homes is typically seen as a man's job, but Syracuse Habitat for Humanity (SHFH) knows otherwise. Next week, it will install its second Women Build that encourages women to take a role in building homes and communities.

"Women's Build was designed to be a safe and welcoming environment to invite women to a construction site," said Suzanne Williams, SHFH executive director. The program is a Habitat for Humanity International initiative.

The not-for-profit organization builds houses for low-income families with the aid of donated materials and volunteer labor. In order to get a Habitat house, homeowners must meet certain criteria, put down a $500 deposit and invest 300 hours of labor -- "sweat equity" -- with the organization. In exchange, Habitat volunteers build a house for them and finance it with a no-interest 20-year loan.

"In general, there are more men that volunteer than women," Williams said. "We want to send the message out to women and girls: This is a very lucrative business! Why do you think men have been doing it all these years? And there's absolutely no reason why women can't own, work [at] or run construction companies."

In 2005, SHFH sponsored its first Women Build. The introductory meeting grabbed the attention of more than 300 people. How many were expected? Fifty tops, Williams said.

"We were absolutely overwhelmed by the response," she said.

So far this year there are between 50 and 70 women waiting to join the ranks of volunteerism, said Fayetteville resident Tim Scott who coordinates volunteers for all the SHFH projects.

"We're definitely still growing and gathering momentum," Scott said. "We're definitely still recruiting." Scott is confident, however, that he'll have more than enough helpers for the build.

There is one problem, though, that remains across the board on every site: loss of momentum.

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