Women Build 2017

“I don’t put anything past women. I feel like you can do anything anybody else can do.” – Monica Grandpre, Habitat Women Build Homeowner

After almost 35 years of building, NOAHH has seen thousands of women build hundreds of homes. From our founding board members to our current homeowners, women have made up a majority of our supporters and partners. Yet in the midst of our first annual Women Build, there was no shortage of men who stopped to stare, and there were many women who left the build site with newfound confidence in their construction skills:

“It was wonderful to get out and be able to provide a service that helps to better our community, and a family in need,” said Women Build volunteer Courtney Davis-Hebert. “Even though we operate daily in a male-dominated industry, it was fun to get our hands dirty and take on another role that is usually male-dominated.”

Over 300 women volunteered to fund and build a home for Monica Grandpre and her two children. In total, over 500 volunteers and supporters were involved in the event, from the donors to the partner families who joined us on site to the women on staff who led the build. In just 12 days, the women of New Orleans came together with Monica to build a home that will be a legacy that will endure for generations.

“The entire build was great,” said Liz Broekman, Women Build team leader. “To work with all the women during the day and so see what we all accomplished was amazing. But my favorite moment was when I actually got the screw to go into the soffit with my drill! Victory!”

Having children of her own is what drove Monica to pursue her long-cherished dream of homeownership. She began looking many years ago, but she hesitated to apply to Habitat’s program until the situation in her neighborhood became too dangerous for her to remain there with her children. In the summer of 2016, she made a call that would change her life. Not long after applying, she was accepted into the First Time Homebuyer’s Program, and a few months later, her home was selected for NOAHH’s first annual Women Build.

“I felt inspired and empowered every day that I arrived to the Women Build site. Each person that was involved in the experience put all of her heart into the project, which resulted in an extremely successful blitz build. By working as a cohesive team, the women of Women Build blew my expectations out of the water.”- Amanda Smith, Women Build House Leader

Working nights at Royal House, she was able to devote her days to working her sweat equity. Monica worked diligently, completing almost all of her hours before the build. She made time to meet with as many volunteers as she could, not just to thank them, but because she understood—as someone who had helped build other people’s homes—how much a difference it made to meet the future homeowner.

Monica did not miss a day of the build, and her presence always brought renewed excitement from the volunteers. Her commitment also shone through in her work: she would see every task she undertook to the finish. No matter what
she was doing—installing spindles on her porch or blowing in insulation—she kept working until the task was done.

“It was awesome meeting Monica,” said Kelly Theard, Women Build team leader. “I was so impressed with her eagerness to get down and do the work, and her excitement was infectious. It was amazing that she spent most of the day with us working on her home, and then went to work her shift that night. I am so excited for her and her family. Her kids have a great mom.”

“Monica worked side-by-side with all of us,” said Jane Scott Hodges, Women Build team leader. “The day we put in the living room floor Monica wanted the best outcome—we chose pattern and boards together to her design eye. The pride and joy she was experiencing was something I will always cherish!”

“I was out there every day because it was my house,” Monica said. “I felt like this project was a big, big deal, and I wanted to be there. These women who were coming out each day to help, I wanted to know them and to thank them. It was inspiring to see women leading and doing all of the work. “

“My favorite part of the build was when I walked into the house and could barely hear myself think because of the hammering sound. It was deafening yet hypnotic. All that banging, banging, then looking around and seeing women and young ladies out of their element, wearing hard hats and holding a hammer. The intensity of concentration it required to successfully hit the nail with the hammer surprised so many of us, including me.” – Allison Durant, Women Build Team Leader, Motherless Daughters

While women did all of the construction, some supplies were delivered to the site by men. One such supplier hesitated when he saw an entire site full of women there to take his delivery:

“He is a very sweet man, but he doesn’t like a woman to have to carry heavy materials,” said Colleen Gately, NOAHH AmeriCorps. “He always yells out to a man on site to come carry the load. Countless times he has told me not to carry a box because ‘it’s too heavy for you,’ and every time I’ve jokingly responded and shown him otherwise. On this day we had 20 women lined up to move his delivery, and he was very hesitant. He could not find a single man to call out to to help us. Of course, we got it done. This moment made me truly aware of how important this Women Build was for all of us. I realized it was not only to empower women to believe they can do anything, but also to empower men to believe it, too.”

Many of NOAHH’s longtime partners joined us on site for the build, including Women Build presenting sponsor GE Digital Women’s Network. Other partners, including Marriott International and Fidelity Bank and newer partners from Woodward Design+Build, brought teams to site and brought men from their offices to serve lunch to the volunteers.

“My favorite moment of the build was after the rain that day, the whole team came back and finished the day. On top of that, we did have the opportunity to share as a team during lunch and know each other better.” – Angelica Rivera, Women Build Team Leader, Colmex Women Empowerment

Not all of the women knew each other before the build, but by the end of the day, they had bonded:

“A lot of people I worked with, we didn’t know each other from a can of paint,” said Monica, “and then we start on this project and got into the swing of things with each other.”

“My most inspired moments were working side by side with other women and learning a skill myself,” said Jane Scott. “I can lay a floor. I can operate an electric saw. I especially enjoyed working with my daughter and learning that we both could learn from each other.”

“There was the feeling that I think each of us experienced, when we realized that we were a part of something bigger,” said Judy Perry Martinez, Women Build team leader. “We realized we were not just hammering the weatherboards of a house, but building a home for a family.”

“My favorite moment from the Women Build was being able to work on the porch railing with Monica,” said Rebecca Maisel, Women Build volunteer. “I love that we were a team of strong, wonderful women working on a house for an inspiring, hardworking single mother, who was there working right alongside us.”

“Without a doubt my favorite moment was meeting Monica’s daughter and having her show me which room would be hers upon completion,” said Cassie Worley, Women Build volunteer and NOAHH Board Member.

“The best moment, I think, was just being with friends all day and then walking away at the end and saying, wow… did we just really frame a house?!” – Amy Reimer, Women Build Team Leader

Women Build was a celebration of Monica’s accomplishments, a response to the needs of women in New Orleans, and an empowering collaboration that brought women together. It impacted everyone who was a part of it. The dedication ceremony was the culmination of a long journey. For the volunteers, it was a chance to see the impact of their work. For the staff, it was the successful end of a major project that took over a year of planning. And for Monica, it was the achievement of her lifelong dream.

“That last day was overwhelming for me,” said Monica. “I was trying to hold back little tears of excitement, thinking ‘This is the end of it. My home’s complete.’ It’s a feeling you really can’t describe. It’s one of my dreams coming true, something I had in the back of my mind for years. It’s something that, when you also didn’t have that as a child, it became not just for my kids, but a dream for myself, too. Now I have my own house, you know? It’s really indescribable.”

“Women Build was incredibly empowering,” said Alyson Harding, Women Build house leader. “That would be my one word to describe it. I’ve worked with Habitat for years now, and I’ve worked with hundreds of amazing female volunteers. I absolutely knew that women can do everything men can do and would be able to successfully build this house. Seeing everything come together and leading women to build a house in 12 days was an awe-inspiring experience, and one I will never forget.”

We will be building two homes for Women Build 2018. Contact Avery at 504-609-3339 to get involved.

Thank you to our women build team leaders

Kappa Horn and Amy Reimer
The Fancy Nailers

Jesseca Malecki
Hammers and Heels

Allison Durant and Caroline Calhoun
Motherless Daughters

Elizabeth Selasky
New Orleans Women’s Realtors

Denise Puentes
Swingin’ Ladies (Hammers, That Is)

Tracy Thomas
GE Digital Women’s Network

Judy Perry Martinez
Hammer On Krewe

Lila Heymann and Alice McGillicuddy
Glitter Box

Jane Scott Hodges
Designing Women

Ann Clayton Chamberlain

Ashley Haspel
The Drill Sergeants

Kelly Theard
Chicks With Bricks

Ellie Rand
The SheetRockers

Riley Kennedy and Emily Shaya
The Brick Freedias

Liz Broekman
Fidelity Bank

Terri Dreyer
Lipstick and Lumber

Nancy Valobra and Erica Schroeder
The BuildHers

Lunch and Fun

Big Freedia
Dr. Patti Farris
Willa Jean
Five Happiness
Imperial Woodpecker Snoballs
Sarah’s Pet Care Revolution
Domino’s Pizza
Zea’s Rotisserie & Grill
Trinity Loaves and Fishes
Juan’s Flying Burrito
Woodward Design+Build
Fidelity Bank
Marty Peters
Glitter Box
Saks Fifth Avenue
Nola Media Group
Salire Fitness
Dave & Buster’s


GE Digital New Orleans
Lockton Dunning
Kass Bros Inc.
Woodward Design+Build
Sanders & Associates
Capital One
Ike’s Snowball
Republic Services
Thirty North Investments
Leontine Linens
Hiller Jewelers
Old Metairie Dermatology
Vista Title
Fidelity Bank
Service Glass
Belle Chasse Marine
Jefferson Wholesale
NFM Lending
Jeanne Andry Landry Law
Preservation Title
Pascal Architects
ReClaim Realty
Ellsworth Corporation
Nola Living Realty
Triton Stone
Rene & Judy Martinez
Huseman Engineering
Turner Home Inspection
Loftin Group
Gibbs Construction
NOLA.com/Times Picayune
Women’s Council of Realtors
Stone Gallery
Velocity Black Dane
Title Depot
Carrollton Vet
Confidence Builders
Coats Rose
Jefferson Door
Palmisano Contractors
Marriott International
Mullin Landscaping
Cypress Planning Group
Besh Group
Champe/Carter Consulting
Iberia Bank
FSC Interactive
Raizk Design
Pret a Fete
Johnson, Yacoubian & Paysse
Deutsch Kerrigan
Zea Rotisserie & Grill
Eustis Mortgage
Haven Custom Furnishings
Weed Whackers
Foundation Insurance Group
Gulf Distributing
MALIN Construction
New Orleans Spartans
Koster Insurance
Bart’s Office
Roofing Supply
Boes Iron Works
Legend Interiors
Shaya Restaurant
Rodan + Fields
CT Keller
Bell Architecture
Valobra Jewelers
Cajun Industries, LLC
Max Derbes
Stewart Contractors
Heyman Foundation
Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn
Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply Line
Southern Services and Equipment Inc
Association of Builders & Contractors Bayou
Plauche Maselli Parkerson LLP
Nora Vaden Holmes Insurance
Donaldson Educational Services