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February 2021 View more

Women Build is an empowering annual event where women come together to raise walls, awareness, and funds to help community members attain safe and affordable housing. While mostly women volunteer for this event, men can assist too—because the “Women Build” moniker also describes who the homes are for, not just who is doing the building.

“Women Build is one of our signature events at DuPage Habitat for Humanity,” explains special events manager Debbie White. “We find that so many of our single-family homeowners are women. Homeownership is harder for women to attain on their own, even in DuPage County,” she says.

Experts recommend that no more than 30 percent of income go towards housing costs, yet nearly 19 million households pay half or more of their monthly income on a place to live. Women tend to be disproportionately affected by this severe cost burden, making up a larger portion of households living in poverty and government-subsidized housing. Statistics show that female heads of households face higher rates of poverty, housing discrimination, and pay inequity.

“We believe it’s a right that everyone has a decent place to live,” says executive director Dave Neary. “The need for affordable housing is outpacing the industry’s ability to meet it. In any year, regardless of a pandemic, the gap continues to grow. It’s a huge challenge. That’s where Habitat is trying to figure out how can we be more impactful.”

DuPage Habitat for Humanity ensures its homes carry affordable mortgages. “We fundraise and utilize volunteer labor so that by the time the house is complete, we don’t owe any money on it. We then create a mortgage for the homeowner that is no more that 30 percent of their monthly income,” Neary explains. “The capital that comes in from the mortgage goes toward building the next round of homes. It’s how Habitat has gone from building about 10,000 homes in the mid-’80s to serving over 35 million people a year around the world.”

Raising Funds and Hope
Participating in Women Build doesn’t require any construction or fundraising experience. Each Women Builder commits to raising $350 to reserve their spot to build on the day of the event. DuPage Habitat makes it easy to raise funds through personalized fundraising websites and social media. Volunteers can participate in teams or as individuals.

Last year due to COVID protocols, DuPage Habitat extended its Build over five weeks in the fall and was able to safely work on two townhouses in Hanover Park. To date, over $113,000 was raised. “We’re so grateful to our volunteer builders and fundraisers for making the pivot and adjusting with us,” White says.

This year’s event kicks off nationally next month with the DuPage Build planned for the fall. For more information, visit dupagehabitat.org.

Photos courtesy DuPage Habitat for Humanity