By Miranda Piedra
TAMWORTH — Forty-one women in matching blue shirts gathered on Lot 41 of Sokokis Pines on a recent Saturday to help build a home for Mount Washington Valley Habitat for Humanity.
The volunteers constructed and hoisted walls that brought a slab foundation one step closer to becoming a home for recipient Greg Tuttle and his two children.
MWV Habitat is one of the few affiliates in the state invited to participate in Women Build, which takes place throughout the week leading up to Mother's Day.
Every year since 1991, Habitat has provided opportunities for women to give back to their communities through Women Build.
Last month, 19 of the volunteers attended a clinic at Lowe's, whose corporate office gives $5,000 grants to eligible Habitat chapters.
Barbara Reilly, vice president of the local chapter, worked with Lowe's to prepare volunteers for the Women Build Day.
According to Reilly, "Since 1994, MWV Habitat has built 18 houses, providing 38 families with simple and decent homes in which 56 children have roofs over their heads where they can be raised in a safe, secure and stable environment."
By 10 a.m. on May 13, the women got down to work.
According to Anthony Ruddy, the MWV Habitat board member who delivered opening remarks at the site, the Lowe's clinic "is the perfect preparation to have the women hit the ground running."
This was Ruddy's third year participating in Women Build.
He opened with, "This is going to be fun for all the guys who are here today ... because we don't have to do anything," because during Women Build Day, men are only supposed to step in and help when asked.
Once the laughs subsided, a woman in the crowd shouted back, "Except tell women what to do!"
The women then divided themselves up into various groups — making headers for windows; cutting needed lumber; drilling holes for electrical wires; building and hoisting wall frames; applying siding to a small shed; or sheathing finished walls.
"Galvanized or not?" was heard often during the morning but less so as the day went on as the volunteers became more experienced.
While the first wall frame was mostly prearranged, with the wood laid out in the shape needed for the build, the following frames were quickly arranged and tackled by the women themselves.
After several hours, the workers broke for lunch to enjoy pizza, sandwich wraps and a variety of desserts provided by Carroll County Altrusa. The non-profit service organization has served breakfast and lunch to Women Build volunteers for the past seven years, said Kathy Somerville, president of CCA.
CCA started working with the project because Somerville's stepfather, Ted Pettengill, was one of the founders of MWV Habitat back in 1994. After his death in 2005, Somerville wanted to keep his memory alive and "keep the enthusiasm" for Habitat going.
The excitement was visible and the constant hammering, as well as laughter, was proof of it.
Among the volunteers was Tuttle.
Tuttle grew up in Effingham and moved to North Conway when he was 12. Tuttle has lived in the area ever since, except for the four years he spent in the military, and he currently works for Jesse E. Lyman Inc. of North Conway.
Despite his working with the company for only the past seven months, his employer has been very accommodating and understanding of the commitment Tuttle has made to MWV Habitat. After all, this is "a hand up, not a hand out," as Habitat says, and Tuttle must be able to deliver the 300 sweat equity hours he agreed to.
Every applicant to Habitat must be willing to put in at least 200 hours of work on a Habitat project. Friends and family can complete the remaining 100 hours, and Tuttle's 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son also can earn hours by writing thank-you notes and cards.
Tuttle was familiar with the process because his brother was a Habitat home recipient a few years back.
Looking around at the sea of blue-shirted volunteers at the site, he said, "It's nice to see it going up and how much effort was actually put into it — it's quite a bit."
His girlfriend, Kate Armington of Lovell, Maine, chimed in, "And to see the inside of the walls, see what goes into a house — it's amazing."
Most Habitat homes are single-story ranch homes, with three beds and one bathroom, totaling 1,100 square feet. But different designs are sometimes used due to the peculiarities of the site itself.
To give Tuttle an idea of what his home will look like, Ruddy's daughter Grace, an eighth-grader, took the building plans and made a 3-D rendering of the finished product.
Pictures of her rendering were displayed on an electrical box at the site.
Once construction is complete, keys will be ceremonially handed over to Tuttle, who will continue working with Habitat.
Ruddy said that while he does not know exactly how many hours will be required to complete this house, he did say last year's build was completed by Nov. 15."
"That is approximately 40 workdays. In general, we try to have the homeowner in the house by the end of the year, but that is not guaranteed," Ruddy said.
The work of MWV Habitat is a continuous process, and even though Women Build Day was a success, there is still plenty to do. That's why volunteers are still encouraged to arrive on the site on Thursdays (build days), Reilly said.
"We do have volunteer days for groups when requested," she continued, in case Thursday is not convenient. Another way to help Habitat is to make donations or purchases from the organization's home furnishing sales.
According to Sam T. Johnson, secretary of the MWV board, the organization usually conducts three big sales each summer. They are "our major fundraising mechanism other than grants," he said.
So, he said, "if you have donations, appliances, building materials, miscellaneous stuff and furniture, of course, we'd be grateful if you'd think of us instead of going to the dump with it."
The next home furnishing sale is Friday, June 2, from 2-7 p.m. and Saturday, June 3, from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at Bear Peak Lodge at Attitash in Bartlett.
According to MWV Habitat Board President Dick Ficke, "John Lowell, president of Attitash, very graciously allows us the use of the lodge for the entire summer."
- Category: Local Business