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Women get ready to build

It's a project designed to build a house for a family in need. But organizers of Goodhue County Habitat for Humanity's Women Build say this year's project also will build relationships and volunteer spirit.

"We're hoping that it builds community through the teams and the teams interacting together," said Dee Bender, who is on Habitat's board of directors.

Habitat has built 28 homes in Goodhue County since 1993. What makes this year's Women Build house stand out is - as the name suggests - it will be built almost entirely by women.

"The motive of this is to be able to unite women in the community to build this," organizer Neela Mollgaard said.

Women Build has been a segment of the international Habitat for Humanity since 1997. Goodhue County's chapter had a Women Build in 2000 - when it was known as First Ladies Build - but hasn't done one since, Bender said.

Organizers came up with the idea to coordinate a Women Build project when they were brainstorming alternative funding ideas early last year. Habitat's previous fundraising campaigns have centered on Give to the Max Day, letters to past donors, a bike ride that Executive Director Parker Quamen participates in every summer and a golf tournament in Cannon Falls.

"When you do the same thing over and over you just want something different," Bender said.

The Women Build house will rely on teams of women to raise funds. Each team will need to raise at least $750, Bender said.

"They can (get that) in any way they want: spaghetti dinners, garage sales, however they want," Bender said.

Teams are composed of co-workers, friends, neighbors, civic groups and even women who don't know each other yet. So far, 15 teams have committed, though Bender said the steering committee hopes to have about five more. Each team will have a maximum of 22 members.

"There's a possibility of over 400 volunteers," Mollgaard said.

Bender said they want to include younger women in the project as well, adding that anyone who is at least 16 years old can join.

"We're hoping that we can have a team of young women or have them join other teams," she said.

As of last week, Habitat for Humanity was still looking for a family for the house the women will build. That piece is crucial because each home is built specifically for the family that will live in it, Bender said. In addition, the family must help with the construction and pay for the home in the form of a non-interest loan from Habitat for Humanity.

"We've gotten a couple applications," Bender said. "But we haven't approved one yet. We are still looking."

The house will be built in the 600 block of Jefferson Street. Groundbreaking has been set for April 29. After that, a schedule will be made outlining when teams will be on-site. Because so many people are involved, each team will only need to work at the construction site three times between May and November.

"It's not a huge commitment at all," Bender said.

However, in that short time, the women will have opportunities to learn home-improvement skills, including window installation, framing and sheet rocking.

"I think many people feel very empowered learning the skills and being part of a team," Mollgaard said.

Bender added that she hopes this project will help teach more than that.

"It's that volunteer spirit that keeps a lot of agencies running so we want to encourage that," she said. "The satisfaction that comes from giving somebody else a hand up, that's one of the greatest things."

A kickoff event for team leaders will take place at the St. James Hotel Feb. 5. Women can join teams by calling 651-388-9360 ext. 31 or emailing

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.