Team Robins women help build houses for local community

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- For many women swinging a hammer is not a typical Saturday activity, but some female members of the 78th Medical Group spent two months pounding away in the name of a local family's prosperity.

Staff Sgt. Melody Shaw was one of several members of the medical group who volunteered to be a craftswoman for Habitat for Humanity. The project was part of the Woman Build program, which is used to encourage women involvement.

In May, construction began on the second Women Build house in Macon where women donated time and energy to help a local family construct a suitable home for their family.

"We are not building the house for the person, we are building the house with the person," said Sergeant Shawn, adding the program requires the families who will own the homes to commit 300 "sweat equity" hours.

It gave women throughout Middle Georgia an opportunity to learn how to build a home from the ground up, while aiding a family in need, Sergeant Shaw said.

"It (Women Build) was created to empower women to do things outside of their typical scope," Sergeant Shaw said. "I was actually able to climb up a ladder and work, rather than just hold a nail."

Sergeant Shaw said because she was one of the few volunteers who didn't have a fear of heights, she spent a lot of time at "the tippity, tippity top of the ladder."

"I did things I never thought I would do," Sergeant Shaw said. "I put up soffit, siding and put shingles on a roof."

Sergeant Shaw said women shouldn't be scared to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity just because they don't know how to do the things required when building a house.

"You don't need to know anything, you just have to be willing to learn," Sergeant Shaw said. "If you can pick up a hammer and a nail, you can work with us."

For some women swinging a hammer just wasn't an option. However, that didn't stop these Team Robins women from chipping in with their own version of elbow grease.

"I am not a carpenter by any means, but I have other talents," said Judy Heath, secretary of public health at Robins.

It was Mrs. Heath's efforts that encouraged women from throughout the medical group to volunteer for the woman-built house. Ms. Heath devoted her time to fundraising and feeding her fellow volunteers who were busy framing the house, painting the walls and putting in the light fixtures. Ms. Heath sent out an email encouraging all women in the medical group to pick up a hammer or a spatula in the name of building suitable homes for area families. The e-mail led Sergeant Shaw, Ms. Harris and many other members of the medical group to volunteer for the Women Build House.

"I think it is an opportunity to give back to your local community. You get a lot of self gratification knowing that you gave of yourself to help someone who has difficulties beyond their control," Ms. Heath said.

Lula Harris, chief nurse of occupational medicine services at Robins also dedicated herself to keeping the workers fed as they continued to construct the home side by side with the family, who would occupy it.

"I knew I couldn't get out there and climb a ladder, but I knew I could help," Ms. Harris said. "So, I did the cooking and brought out the food."

All of the women agreed they were looking forward to working with future Habitat for Humanity projects. Sgt. Shaw has helped build two more houses since the woman-built house was completed and is now the volunteer coordinator for Macon Area Habitat for Humanity and said she dreams of having a Robins Build program, where Team Robins can join together to help a family realize their dream of home ownership.