Habitat house aims for female help

Jose Romero, of Winchester, builds forms for the foundation of this future Habitat home at 502 N. Kent St. in Winchester on Monday. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER — On Monday of Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week, a crowd of volunteers and community business representatives gathered to kick off a house raising.

The groundbreaking ceremony through Habitat for Humanity of Winchester-Frederick County took place at 502 N. Kent St., Winchester, at the former site of Cartwright’s Recreation Center.

Each year, the National Women Build project encourages women to join Habitat for Humanity efforts by spotlighting homes built for women. Winchester’s last Women’s Build project was in 2009, and local Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Michael Butler said the 2015 project will build a home for area resident Lahoma Samuels and her four daughters.

“This is truly a Women’s Build,” he said, “from the ground up.”

The property on the corner of Kent and Kern streets has belonged to Winchester’s Economic Development Authority since 2008. The recreation center was demolished that year, and the property has been empty ever since.

Mike Butler, executive director for Winchester-Frederick County Habitat for Humanity, at left in the pink jacket, directs the crowd to look over the new site for the next Habitat home to be built. The all-woman built project is located at 502 N. Kent Street in Winchester. The Monday event was a ground-blessing ceremony. Rich Cooley/Daily

Habitat for Humanity will use a $35,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Housing Foundation to fund the build. Local Wells Fargo employees will donate 300 volunteer hours, requiring another 300 hours by other volunteers to fulfill grant requirements.

Other organizations that have signed onto the project include the Winchester Group, American Woodmark Foundation and the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley, which presented Butler with a $1,500 check on Monday to use for windows and doors.

One of the church’s representatives, Kelsey Wilkes, said she joined Habitat to do something good to help the community.

A volunteer for about seven years, she said she likes the idea of the Women’s Build but hopes women will stick around and keep volunteering for other projects, too.

Habitat often hosts themed builds to inspire enthusiasm among certain groups, she said, “[but] you can always sign up and come out.”

The Winchester organization builds on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, she said. Framing of the house will begin on Saturday if the weather cooperates, or at the latest on May 12, Butler said.

On Monday, as the sun blazed down onto the assembled crowd, some in suits or dresses and others in building attire, Butler said he was glad for the number and variety of those who came to listen.

“It’s good to see everybody come out and help, with their sweat equity,” he said. “[It’s] good to know that there are people who believe in your cause and are willing to help.”

Among those assembled was Winchester Mayor Elizabeth Minor, who beamed during Butler’s speech and agreed that the more involved in Habitat the merrier.

“I can remember when the first few homes were built and dedicated, and it’s been wonderful to have so many people giving their time and their talents and expertise.”

Calling the idea of a Women’s Build a neat idea, Minor said all homes built through Habitat are important for the city.

“I think it’s going to be wonderful for the neighborhood,” she said. “Kind of a new beginning on this corner.”

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com