By Gregg Bragg, The Island Connection Staff Writer
Women Build has been part of the Sea Island Habitat for Humanity (Habitat) for close to 20 years. True to their vision of “A world where everyone has a decent place to live,” they spend a week each year building a house for someone who doesn’t. The commitment to “build homes, communities and hope” is constant. During the week of April 15, hundreds of women from all over the Lowcountry will meet in the Heritage Oaks sub-division on James Island to add to a long list of accomplishments.
Typically, the group arrives the first day to nothing but a foundation. Frames are then built and lifted into place followed by the manufacture of trusses. The trusses are then lifted into place on top of the frame. Once everything is “squared,” the women move on, adding fiber board to outside walls, decking to the roof, fabric and Tyvek, windows, doors, siding, tar paper and shingles. Sounds pretty easy and in a lot of ways, it is.
Division of labor is the key. Dozens of residents from Seabrook, Kiawah, along with employees of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort join women from all over the Lowcountry to get it all done. Carol Shilepsky, Chair of the Women Build Committee collaborates with people like Louis Kines, Development Coordinator, and Jacob Elsey. These three work together to organize work groups into shifts of 35 women at any given time, schedule materials delivery in advance and “tee up” things like inspections. Every possible detail is streamlined.
Never has the expression, “Many hands make work light,” been more apt. It has been that way with Habitat from the beginning.
The Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions sent volunteers to Johns Island In the late 1960s to repair homes and help migrant workers. The gesture was well received, repeated, and continued to gain traction. They garnered recognition from Habitat, a relatively new organization at the time. The end of the 70’s witnessed a full-blown marriage of the two organizations, forming the Sea Island Habitat for Humanity, the very genesis of the third oldest Habitat chapter on planet Earth.
Habitat places additional requirements on the bargain for one of their homes, while the loan requirements are identical to those demanded by any traditional lender. For example, applicants have to:
- Verify employment
- Be drug free
- Have an acceptable credit history
- Have a credit rating >= 600
- Verify the number of people living in the house
- Maintain an active savings account
- Pass a financial literacy class
- Take a homeowner’s “maintenance” course
- Contribute 300 hours of sweat equity
Approved candidates are then loaned $100,000 for 30 years on the house (appraised for a value ranging from $140,000 – $160,000) interest free. Before you ask, NO, they can’t simply “flip” the house. The difference in the loan amount and appraised value is essentially held as a second mortgage on the property that homeowners must also satisfy if they sell early. Some proration is possible, of course, but if the 30-year term is met, the homeowner is entitled to the property’s full value.
Habitat had one resident stay in their home for 38 years (before selling), but the advantage is clear. Renting the same amount of space in the Lowcountry can cost as much as $1200/month. The interest free loan can reduce expenses to something closer to $600/month, freeing limited income for other requirements. The “hand up, instead of a hand out” makes a real difference and you can, too.
People wishing to volunteer for 2018’s Women Build can register by visiting TridentHabitat.com/pages/sihh-womenbuild-2018-registration.
You can also contact Wendy Kulick or Diane Lehder by sending an email to Kulickwkulick@ bellsouth.net, Maryanne Connelly – firstname.lastname@example.org, Catherine Scully – email@example.com, Kathleen Ciarlante – firstname.lastname@example.org, which includes name, email, birthdate, and phone number. The $35 registration fee gets you a t-shirt, snacks and lunch, and when combined with corporate and private donations helps cover the cost of materials.
Checks should be made out to “Sea Island Habitat for Humanity.” Regardless of your skill set, Women Build has a way for you to make a difference.
Habitat builds houses year round and is always looking for volunteers regardless of their level of construction experience.
For more information or ways you can help, visit LowcountryHabitat.org.