Homemaker, Version 2007

Teresa Hon, Technical Services Program Manager, Rebecca Leistico, Accounts Receivable Specialist, and Colene Vogel, Technical Services Program Manager; American Public Works Association, Kansas City, Missouri

Recently, three members of APWA's national staff in Kansas City participated in the Kansas City Metro Chapter's Diversity Committee community service project—Habitat for Humanity. The KC Metro Chapter has supported Habitat for Humanity projects before. One past project was the conversion of an old fire station into a community center. The project the chapter chose this August, a house, was unique in that it was their first Women Build project.

Colene Vogel, Gailla Rogers, Sherri McIntyre and Teresa Hon hang vinyl siding

Habitat for Humanity probably needs no introduction. The organization's work is well known. They build houses for families that could otherwise not afford them. Habitat sets a minimum and maximum income for a family to qualify. Habitat also holds the mortgage on the house. Families receiving a house must also contribute 350 hours of "sweat equity" or volunteer time with the organization. In Kansas City, Habitat has set a goal to build 12 to 15 houses next year. While this number is impressive it is far from meeting the needs of the community. This year there were over 100 applications submitted.

At the time of the KC Metro Chapter Diversity Committee Project, there were four homes in various stages of completion. One home was funded entirely through private donations, another through contributions from several religious organizations, while the two other homes were funded traditionally through the Habitat for Humanity program.

Once the KC Metro Chapter Diversity Committee committed to the project there were several relatively easy steps:

  • Call local chapter of Habitat for Humanity and request available work dates
  • Decide which date works best for our organization
  • Commit to a date
  • Recruit volunteers via newsletter, e-mail, personal networking, etc.
  • Confirm details of work day with confirmed volunteers
  • Plan for lunch at the site
  • Show up at Habitat headquarters the morning of the work day

The chapter had no shortage of women members willing to volunteer. It was a large crew:

  • Tara Barnett, Bucher Willis & Ratliff Corp.
  • Stephanie Brodersen, HNTB
  • Rachelle Cornelius, City of Kansas City, MO
  • Sara Croke, Weather or Not (delivered lunch)
  • Deanna Davis, Geopier
  • Stephanie Denbow, Habitat Women Build
  • Lisa Diercksen, TranSystems
  • Hilary Fellows, Burns & McDonnell
  • Pam Fortun, City of Overland Park, KS
  • Teresa Hon, APWA staff
  • Rebecca Leistico, APWA staff
  • Sherri McIntyre, HDR
  • Judy Niemeyer, City of Lee's Summit, MO
  • Mary Parrott, City of Overland Park, KS
  • Gailla Rogers, City of Kansas City, MO
  • Anita Simmons, City of Kansas City, MO
  • Demetra Thornton, Habitat Women Build
  • Colene Vogel, APWA staff
  • Cathy Wilson, City of Overland Park, KS
  • Catlin Wenger, daughter of Judy Niemeyer

Male "assistants" included:

  • Oz Qureshi, Habitat for Humanity
  • Joe Remmers, City of Kansas City, MO
  • Scott Gorsuch, Peridian Group, Inc.

  Lisa Diercksen measures to cut the soffit piece

As you can see, there was even a mother-daughter team. The men who volunteered did their best to stay out of the way! There were plenty of pictures and no injuries, save a few sunburns, blisters and believe it or not, mosquito bites! Many volunteers brought their own tools and tool belts. Thanks to our KC Metro Chapter coordinators there was plenty of iced-down bottled water to keep us hydrated throughout the day.

The day started at 8:00 a.m. at the Habitat for Humanity office. Once all of the volunteers were signed in, we were told what we would be working on for the day. The plan was to clean up after the crew who had hung sheetrock the day before and continue putting up vinyl siding and trim outside. After a video introduction to vinyl siding installation, the convoy of volunteers left the office for the house, a few blocks away.

The Habitat for Humanity sign in front of the house promoting the Women Build program

Cleaning up the sheetrock was completed fairly quickly. The rest of day was spent outside, measuring, cutting siding and trim, and nailing. There were a few ladies with experience with power tools who took turns with the table saw. Most were anxious to get up the ladders and start nailing.

There was a wide range in the level of experience these volunteers brought to the project. Some were obviously quite comfortable in the construction environment while others were happy to work as long as they received some direction first. The phrase "I've never done this before" was heard more than once throughout the day. When one of the male volunteers was asked if it was making him cringe that we were proceeding slowly or he thought we should have done something differently, his reply was, "No, I'm learning from you."

The lunches were made by Browne's Irish Market and were provided by Weather or Not. Being a crew of public works professionals, bottles and cans were faithfully collected for recycling.

Volunteers cited several reasons for participating in the project. Just a few of those included:

  • A desire to become involved in Habitat for Humanity projects
  • Wanted to do something for the community
  • Hoped to learn something I could use in my own home
  • Curiosity
  • I didn't have anything else planned for the day

The day passed as quickly as the temperature rose and before you knew it the sun had moved from one side of the house to the other, it was 3:00 p.m. and time to begin cleanup.

When asked at the end of the day, "Would you volunteer again, maybe make this an annual event?" most answered, "Maybe." Of course, it was an August afternoon in Kansas City so an annual event in October probably would have sounded a little more inviting at the time. Even with the heat, there were several who were eager to repeat the project next year!

  • All-purpose snips: $9.97
  • Pink work gloves: $12.95
  • Finding out you're afraid of heights for a good cause: PRICELESS!
- Rebecca Leistico, APWA staff

Teresa Hon can be reached at (816) 595-5224 or thon@apwa.net; Rebecca Leistico can be reached at (816) 595-5274 or rleistico@apwa.net; and Colene Vogel can be reached at (816) 595-5221 or cvogel@apwa.net.