'Ladies Level Up' To Build Affordable Housing
Habitat for Humanity of Haywood County plays a major part in helping people toward financial freedom, and many of these people are women — single moms, with kids, taking care of their parents, trying to get back on their feet. It’s a beautiful transition to watch unfold because when women are able to find a secure and affordable home, more possibilities unfold in their lives.
Habitat for Humanity’s Executive Director Jamye Sheppard has a true passion for helping others help themselves and recently took the time to talk to Rumble about a new exciting fundraising opportunity for women in the community. The Ladies Level Up campaign to raise $60,000 to build a Habitat home in Waynesville is a testament to how women from all walks of life can come together to make a big difference in the lives of other women. So far, the campaign has raised $30,000 and is well on its way to reaching the $60,000 goal.
Rumble: How did the idea for Ladies Level Up come about?
Jamye: We have had a very active Women Build program for a number of years. The women that have participated have a true passion for the mission of Habitat and they've witnessed firsthand the increasing number of women-led households that need affordable housing. After working side by side with other volunteers and homeowners as well, several of the more active Women Build volunteers realized that it would be a great thing to engage women from all walks of life all over the county to make affordable housing a reality for someone like them. We had heard of other Women Build groups doing this sort of thing and knew that it would work well in Haywood County. Once the idea started to take form, and that didn't take long, the excitement has been contagious.
Rumble: Why do you think Women Build has been such a successful Habitat program?
Jamye: By our nature, women are doers. We see a problem and we want to do something about it. Women have a history of creating positive social change and Habitat is no different. Habitat, because it's home construction, might seem like an organization that doesn't have much opportunity for women to make a difference, but that's not the case. Women Build is all about getting women together to learn how to build and make a difference in moving the affordable housing needle in the right direction. It has been and continues to be one of the more popular Habitat programs. Women are excited to learn that there is a hands-on place for them with Habitat.
Rumble: What do women in particular bring to the table when it comes to fundraising and community building?
Jamye: Women are great at networking and most love to socialize. At the end of the day, isn't that what fundraising and community building are all about? Building a community's passion around an idea so that people are interested in bringing it to fruition is all the result of networking — building relationships. Women especially like to get involved in the causes they support, and problem solving is very much at the core of what motivates women to donate and raise money. We like to solve problems by doing something about them, not waiting in the wings while someone else does all of the work. We want to ensure that real action is happening because of the money we've raised and given ourselves.
Rumble: Is it possible for women to build this house from the ground up or are we still going to need the help of some men?
Jamye: With the right training, women can do this work and do. That's what Women Build is all about. That being said, we need a lot of people to get the house built in a timely manner, so we will definitely include our male volunteers wherever we can to keep the project moving. Our regular weekly volunteers are primarily men, and they are excited about Ladies Level Up. They have all said they'll do whatever it takes to support this work.
Rumble: What percentage of Haywood Habitat owners (or even applicants) are women-led households?
Jamye: That's a number that continues to grow. In the last 10 years, our percentage of women-led households in the program is 60%.
Rumble: What opportunities open up for women once they secure stable housing?
Jamye: The most immediate impact is shelter and financial stabilization. That alone reduces the stress and fear in a household for all members. When a woman works with volunteers to build her home that builds self-esteem. Self-esteem empowers her to try things she never considered, like a new and better job or going back to school to learn skills that will help increase her income and ensure long-term career growth. We've all heard success breeds success. When a Habitat homeowner is successful in completing the homebuilding and homeownership steps, they almost always reach higher for even more success and they inspire others in the household to do the same.
Rumble: What's the latest on construction at the Chestnut Park community?
Jamye: Our first home will be finished sometime this summer and house #2 is under roof. We plan to start houses 3 and 4 in late summer or early fall. House #4 will be the Ladies Level Up house, and we’ll be selecting the homeowner for that house when we get closer to our $60,000 goal.
Rumble: How can individual women and women in businesses get involved in this campaign?
Jamye: Everyone, individuals and businesses, can give and help us reach the $60,000 goal. Every single gift, no matter the amount, helps get us closer. Individuals can tell their friends or groups they belong to about Ladies Level Up and encourage them to give. Perhaps there are women's groups that would like to do something together to help. Businesses can give or maybe even create a challenge to a similar business (dental office vs dental office, bank vs bank,etc.) to see who can raise the most to support the Ladies Level Up house. You can give on the Haywood Habitat website, by mail: P.O. Box 283, Waynesville, NC 28786; or call for other ways 828.452.7960. We encourage everyone to get involved. This is a Haywood County women's project to benefit a local female-led household. For me personally, it's hard to say no to that!