Two New Houses Built Through Habitat For Humanity’s ‘Women Build’ Program

By PJ Parker

Amid the sights and sounds of hammers and saws, ladders and buckets of paint, more than 25 women pitched in May 5 to construct two homes on Delmonico Avenue for two families in the Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity program on Women Build Day.

Women Build is a nationwide week-long event sponsored by Lowe’s Companies in conjunction with Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity, according to RVHH executive director Jan Holmstrup. The event centers on the principle of “strong women lift others up.” It is an event where women from all walks and stages of life join together to build stronger, safer communities, she said.

The Habitat model, she explained, helps families not only to obtain homes, but to actively participate in the actual building process. Habitat subsidizes the costs and then sells the homes to families at substantially reduced prices, typically at zero percent or very low-interest mortgages.

Prospective homeowners go through a qualifying selection process based on need, steady income, federal Housing and Urban Development low-income guidelines and the willingness to partner in the building process, which entails 250 hours per adult in each prospective home, Holmstrup said.

New homeowner Tania Sue Thomas said, “We are so excited, my children are all ready and waiting.” Thomas has four children, ages 11-21.

“My mom led us to Habitat for Humanity,” Thomas said. “She got the information through Central Jersey Resource Center and thought, that’s good for my daughter. It was just meant to be.”

“You have to be willing to put in 250 hours of sweat equity and it’s all so worth it,” she said. “Look at my new house.”

The second new homeowner, Nema Walie, hails from Egypt and spent 10 years trying to move her husband and four children, ages 2-16 , into the U.S. and out of a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment.

“We would have stayed in that apartment for the rest of our lives without Habitat for Humanity, and because of them, we now have a house,” she said.

Walie was going to make this house indelibly theirs. When she and husband Ashraf were married, more than 16 years ago, Nema held a Bible blessed by her priest. That Bible traveled with the family to Somerset and now has literally become the centerpiece of their new home.

“I wanted our Bible to continue to be our foundation,” she said. “I asked a priest here to please bless it and then we placed it in the exact center of the floor space. The foundation was poured over it. It is at the heart of our home.”

With Lowe’s, through Habitat International, as the central corporate sponsor for the Women Build events, local Franklin Township sponsors have also included Temple Beth El, Community Baptist Church, Masjid e Ali Mosque, Met Life and Franklin Township Girl Scout Troop 60607.

According to Rebecca Maier, volunteer engagement manager for RVHH, Lowes issued a $5,000 grant and Met Life issued $500 for each Met Life woman who participated in this project. There were seven local women from Met Life on the team.

The project’s local fund-raisers each started their own pages, which raised, $2,270, for a total of $10,770. The money goes back into the Women Build fund nationwide for future homes.

“The whole purpose of Women Build is to empower other strong women to help build these homes for their neighbors in need,” Maier said.

Girl Scouts from Franklin Township Troop 60607 provided lunch for the event. There were sandwiches, fruit, homemade baked goods, including Habitat for Humanity edible banner cupcakes.

Volunteer crew chief, Deaconess Josie Chisom, led the group in prayer right before lunch. A retired microbiologist, Chisom has been with Habitat for more than 14 years and has helped build 30 homes, including the Delmonico two.

“I always wanted to be a part of Habitat for Humanity,” she said. “I have learned so much about house building and construction and made so many wonderful friends, and the best part is seeing the faces on the families when they finally get their keys. I just love it.”

Another testament to the heart of this project was offered by crew chief Dint Moore. She invited each volunteer builder to write a good wish on any one of the structural beams or random lumber, all to be permanent parts of each of the two homes.

“You are not just building a house for people to live in,” she said. “You are changing the direction of these families’ lives.”

Here are some scenes from the event:


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