Home Grown

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build creates community and develops bonds uniting families and neighborhoods, one home at a time.

When Carmen Cruz moves into her Our Towns Habitat for Humanity home in Cornelius’s Poole Place neighborhood later this summer, she’ll be achieving a dream she never thought possible.

“I heard about Habitat for Humanity from a neighbor who was interested in applying for a home,” says Cruz. “She talked me into applying also. One month later, I got the call—I was approved. It has been an opportunity and an experience that I am so grateful for. I get to own something that belongs to me. My daughter can live in a safe environment and have a better life ahead.”

Stories like Cruz’s inspire hundreds of volunteers and donors to raise funds, build homes, and provide support through Our Towns Habitat for Humanity, an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. With its origins extending back to 1985, Our Towns Habitat builds homes and serves the communities of Huntersville, Davidson, and Cornelius in northern Mecklenburg County and all of Iredell County including Mooresville, Troutman, and Statesville.

More than 326 housing solutions have been provided for families in need of safe, affordable housing since Our Towns Habitat’s founding. The home earmarked for Cruz will be the ninth Women Build completed by the organization.

Women Build is Habitat for Humanity’s program for women who want to learn construction skills and build homes and communities. The program began with Habitat’s Charlotte affiliate 25 years ago, and to date, there are more than 800 Women Build Habitat homes across the globe.

“Women Build is a program about empowering and being inclusive to women,” says Katie Tuttle, Our Towns Habitat volunteer and former Board member. Tuttle has volunteered with the organization for 10 years and has been involved in about 20 builds, including six Women Builds. “It is not about excluding men, it’s about making the experience more encouraging and comfortable for women to get involved.”

No Skills Necessary

Tuttle stressed no construction background or skills are necessary to participate.

“People will show you what to do,” she says. “If there is something you’re not comfortable doing, we’ll find something that works for you. You’ll meet amazing people and learn new things.”

Amy Hartman, Our Towns Habitat volunteer and Board member, echoed this sentiment.

“The advantage of a Women Build is that we assume people come without specific homebuilding skills and we take more time up front to say, ‘This is what we’re doing, and this is how we’re doing it.’”

In addition to providing the bulk of the labor for Women Builds, women volunteers conduct fundraising and purchase materials for the homes under construction.

Hartman started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Charlotte in 2004, and her first project was a Women Build.

“I showed up the first day and fell in love, and caught the ‘Habit-itis’ and haven’t been able to get rid of it since,” says Hartman. “I fell in love with the learning new skills and feeling of accomplishment you get when you start with 2-by-4s and end up with walls, or you start with no roof and at the end of the day, have a roof on the house. The sense of accomplishment and teamwork is satisfying.”

Poole Place in Cornelius is a neighborhood where several Our Towns Habitat homes have been built.

“Very often homeowners continue participating in the program and give back by helping build other homes,” says Tuttle. “We have another Women Build homeowner in the neighborhood that comes out and helps on homes because of the connection she’s made to people she knows and wants to continue to give back.”

For Carmen Cruz, moving into her new residence will be a welcome homecoming indeed.

Photography by LunahZon Photography.