All-women crewsconstruct houses

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — By trade, Bonnie Jolly is a property tax analyst. At heart, she longs to pour concrete, pound nails and hang drywall.
Her dreams came true when she answered a call for volunteers to build a Habitat for Humanity home — with an all-women crew.
Training was included, and the 48-year-old Jolly was soon hammering to her heart’s delight. She plans to take her mother to the Mother’s Day groundbreaking in Lincoln.
“I had to laugh because last night I was up on a ladder in a dress and heels putting up trim and then I was down on the floor working on the baseboards,” Jolly said.
All-women projects, which Habitat for Humanity began in 1990, have proven an increasingly popular way to attract volunteers.
“I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough volunteers,” said Sandy Wolfe, the executive coordinator for the Habitat affiliate in Lincoln that is building Nebraska’s first house with a female crew. “I got more than 300, and we had to start a second house just so everyone would have a chance to get involved.”
Rookies like Jolly say they are attracted to the all-women crews because they want to learn carpentry without the intimidation factor posed by men.
Cecilia Frederick appreciates the female camaraderie she’s experienced supervising the construction of 30 women-built houses in the St. Paul, Minn., area.
“We’ll be up there and all of a sudden we’ll start singing Girl Scout songs and everyone joins in,” she said.
Wendy Birdsall said she hopes to learn those basics. The 37-year-old marketing director tried to hang a door at her home but had it fall over on top of her.
In 20 years, Habitat for Humanity has built 50,000 houses in 47 countries. Habitat provides interest-free mortgages to low-income families.
About half of those who move into Habitat houses are single women with children, Wolfe says. Most female volunteers say they appreciate that but are mostly attracted to the work for the construction training.
Each family selected to own a Habitat house helps build it, contributing about 200 hours in “sweat equity” during three months.
Frederick, the St. Paul supervisor, notes one prime difference between houses built by women and those put up by Habitat’s usual crews, which are predominantly male.
“Because most of the women are new to construction, they actually read the instructions,” she says. “Men tend to have a little more experience, so they take chances and risks that don’t always work.”