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Dozens of women turn out for Habitat build

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With a swing of a hammer and a pull of a saw, more than 60 women on Saturday helped two local families get that much closer to realizing the dream of homeownership.

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With a swing of a hammer and a pull of a saw, more than 60 women on Saturday helped two local families get that much closer to realizing the dream of homeownership.

The dozens of women were among about 100 total people taking part in a build organized as part of Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week, which runs from Saturday through May 14.

Nationwide, the initiative invites women to spend one day helping families in their community to “build strength, stability and independence through housing,” according to the national Habitat for Humanity organization.

In September 2013, Habitat for Humanity West Hawaii purchased six lots from the county at Kamakoa Nui to build houses for families below 80 percent of the median income line, according to news files. The first four houses were blessed in February, bringing the organization’s total to 32 homes in West Hawaii.

On Saturday, workers were busy with the lanai and railings for both houses while also finishing up the battens and siding, said Dave Kirwin, the construction crew leader and AmeriCorps volunteer.

“We’re just helping complete this house,” he said.

And beyond that, the event gave women in the community a chance to put their construction skills to good use and inspire other women to do the same.

“It’s great to come out to events like this to show that we can do it,” said April Reid at the build. Kirwin said the event helps to emphasize the role of women in construction, adding that it shows that “it doesn’t really matter what gender you are or who you are, what ethnicity you are or what race you are, everyone has a place to build houses for people who need it,” he said.

Julie Aponte recently got her contracting license and said she came out to take part and prove that women can build just as solid a home as anyone else and also “show that we can do it and that we are doing it.”

Reid added that the event is also an opportunity for women who aren’t experienced in construction and might not otherwise even consider taking part.

“And then they come out to events like this and they actually enjoy doing stuff like this and getting out here and being active and visible and working alongside their peers,” she said, “And then of course (there’s) the great cause of doing it.”

Reid said she’d learned that a significant number of Habitat for Humanity homes support single working moms, which underscores the importance of the build.

“So that’s definitely a give-back,” she said. “Habitat has done tremendously for single moms; I think that’s amazing.”

“It makes the Women’s Build even more important, more touch-home,” added Aponte.

Johnalee Key is one of those single moms to benefit from the program. Once construction on one of the homes being built Saturday is all finished, Key will become its new owner.

Stepping away from work on what will soon be her home, Key said that she’s grateful to everyone who has been coming out to work on the house.

Key currently lives in Waimea with her children but works in Waikoloa, forcing her to commute every day.

“With it being closer to work, it’s just going to be a lot easier, for one,” she said.

“And with the kids, honestly for me it’s just a blessing. I don’t even know how else to say it.”

Ever since her application was accepted years ago, she and her children have worked to take part in raising their new home starting with clearing the area of weeds before construction could start.

“Honestly, it gives me butterflies,” Key said. “Just because seeing it from the beginning where there was nothing, but each week that we come, every time, more and more gets done.”

And it wouldn’t be possible without all of the volunteers who came from across the country to contribute.

“It gives me a whole feeling that there’s people that will come out and actually donate their time,” she said. “So it’s very humbling.”

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Aponte said even if someone isn’t sure how they can contribute, coming out and making an effort is the first step.

“Come out and say you tried and you gave it your all. That’s all you can do,” she said. “And you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish when you try.”