Virtually every day of the year, women can be found hard at work, volunteering at Habitat build sites throughout the GTA.
But September is different. That’s when Habitat hosts Women Build, a special fundraiser (September 14-17 and 20-24) that celebrates and harnesses the unbeatable power of women to help transform a community.
Nearly 1,000 women from all walks of life – including builders, crew leaders, event volunteers, speakers and sponsors – will collaborate together at the new Pinery Trail build site to build safe, decent homes for 15 working, low-income families in need of affordable housing.
“The availability of decent affordable housing for families is pretty much non-existent in the city of Toronto right now,” says Marni Dicker, Chair of the Women Build Executive Committee and Executive Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Infrastructure Ontario. “Habitat GTA’s goal, through Women Build and all of its build projects, is to offer families an alternative to rental that will enable them to break the cycle of poverty and begin leading more stable, independent lives through affordable homeownership.” In addition to helping build homes, explains Marni, this year’s participants aim to raise $500,000 to support Habitat GTA’s home building projects.
Angela Burley is co-captain of the Chalk Line Chicks team, which is currently holding the top spot for most funds raised to date. An urban planner by profession, Angela has always taken a keen interest in housing and the development process. With two children at university, Angela found she had a little extra time on her hands so, at the suggestion of a friend, she began volunteering at the ReStore on Bermondsey Road. In May, Angela and her friend Lori Patyk attended the Women Build launch party at the Distillery District.
“We were hooked!” says Angela. “It was a terrific evening with wonderful women and the vibe got us energized to commit to building a team and participating in this year’s build.”
When Lori and Angela reached out to people to join their team, the response was very enthusiastic. They have a team of ten women and a few in the wings.
“Each one of our team members said, ‘Oh, I’ve always wanted to do that’ and ‘I’ve heard it’s a blast’ and ‘what a great cause’,” says Angela, adding that one of their team members will be celebrating her birthday on the day of their build.
When asked how the new team skyrocketed to the top fundraising spot Angela says, “You find out a lot about people when you commit to doing something like this, especially how competitive people can be! Perhaps the lure of wearing a gold hardhat helps?”
She admits that the Chalk Line Chicks have been fortunate to have a great many generous friends and colleagues supporting their efforts. In many cases if someone was invited to join the team but couldn’t, they would still sponsor the group to show their encouragement.
The Chalk Line Chicks are all looking forward to making a contribution to the actual building of a home for someone deserving says Angela. “Many on our team are very capable women who know their way around power tools and know home building techniques. Perhaps we’ll give the site supers a run for their money…”
This sense of empowerment is exactly the kind of response Jane Neville likes to hear from her fellow Women Build participants. Jane works in the construction industry as Director of Project Management for a manufacturer of architectural wall systems, and she has been involved with Women Build for the past four years. As an industry insider, Jane is well aware of changes facing the construction industry in the years ahead, and the growing need for companies to engage and attract more women to roles.
“What the Women Build event does is make people think about women in construction by cultivating a sense of empowerment, making it open and accessible, encouraging women to see that thisis possible for them,” says Neville. She sees Women Build as a very non-judgmental platform that offers a small window into the industry where individuals can test and see if a career in construction might be something they could consider.
“We want to encourage women of power to come out, to lend a hand, lend their skills, and mentor young women who are just starting their careers.”
When asked about her favourite Women Build memory, for Jane, it was linked to seeing the outcome of the work that had been done on the build site. She recalled attending the key presentation ceremony for the house her team had helped to build.
“Being there and seeing the family and the real impact of receiving the key to their home had on them was an incredible experience. They were unbelievably appreciative and excited. It was overwhelming to see the reaction on the kids’ faces and the parents’ faces. It was life changing for them.”
“That’s why I tell people that this is a very accessible event,” says Jane. “It’s very easy for them to see their successes and what their money was used for. You can see the physical house, the family, and the impact of where your money went.”
Women Build 2016 is grateful for the generous support of Benefit Cosmetics (2016 Presenting Sponsor), Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (Bronze Sponsor); Fengate, BMO, and P&G Professional (Supporting Sponsors).
For more information on Women Build 2016 visitwww.womenbuildgta.ca, follow us on Twitter @habitatGTA and Facebook #wbgta.