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Greater Rochester Assn. for Women Attys. volunteer at Habitat for Humanity

It’s one thing to think outside the box. But occasionally we need to step outside the box and venture beyond our comfort zone.

That is what several members of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys did last Friday when they volunteered their time to Flower City Habitat for Humanity (FCHH), and participated in one day’s labor to help create a new home for someone who otherwise may have never owned a house, and who definitely wouldn’t have been able to shop for “new construction.”

Prepared with instructions to wear appropriate work shoes and clothes, the team of five women had a first time experience, receiving on-the-job training from Habitat site supervisor Erwin McGeary.

The rookie crew, including Holly Hansen, Esq. from the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office; Rochester City Court Judge Anne Pfeiffer; Patricia Gallaher, Esq., law clerk to Monroe Family Court Judge Marilyn O’Connor; Jeanne Boyle, law clerk to Supreme Court Judge Harold L. Galloway; and Nora A. Jones, Esq., editor of The Daily Record, each learned something new that day — about how difficult construction work is, and about stamina, endurance, and cooperation.

Emphasizing safety, McGeary provided direction to the new crew of volunteers — a task he must repeat almost every day. There are some frequent volunteers who may give a day a week on a regular basis, but there are many who come in to lend a hand on a one-day basis.

Friday’s Tasks

We started by carrying scrap drywall to the dumpster and cleaning up the three in-progress upstairs bedrooms.

Then we were instructed on making sure the heads of screws and nails did not extend past the outer surface of the already installed drywall. Once these were checked, several members of the crew proceeded to spackle over the metal heads with “drywall mud” to leave a clean, smooth surface.

By afternoon several were helping to measure, mark, cut, and hang drywall on the stairway walls and first floor ceilings. Glue guns, electric screwdrivers, and an assortment of tools seemed awkward to the novice, but proved manageable by most.

Flower City Habitat

FCHH is a nonprofit, non-denominational Christian housing ministry affiliated with Habitat for Humanity International. Both the local and parent organizations exist to build simple, decent, affordable housing for people who are economically challenged. The local organization was established in 1984, and has completed homes for more than 100 families, and has six currently in progress.

In the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood, the new two-story home that GRAWA is helping with is more than half-way done. Now in its 15th week of construction, the selected homeowner hopes to move in later this fall.

Women Building A Legacy

The home is part of “Women Building A Legacy” — a special program developed at the international level, designed to involve women in improving the housing conditions that affect the health and well-being of economically disadvantaged families.

The home at 4 Madison Park is an appropriate tribute to the Susan B. Anthony historical neighborhood. This project commemorates the 150th anniversary of Anthony’s involvement in the women’s rights movement.

The Building Continues

GRAWA volunteers are signed up to help again on Friday, Oct. 4, Saturday, Oct. 5 and Friday, Oct. 11.

Habitat construction goes on year-round, Tuesdays through Saturdays. This year approximately 10 houses will be completed. Materials for each home typically cost about $60,000. Various contractors donate their time for electrical, plumbing and other specialized aspects of the construction. All of the other work is completed by a combination of volunteers, the prospective homeowner, and a site supervisor who is an employee of Habitat.

“Someone has to oversee each project,” explained McGeary. “Things have to be completed in the right sequence and with the correct approach. I may be supervising two or three sites at the same time to help meet the needs of our community.”

Habitat Homeowners

The homes are sold at no profit and with a no interest, 20-year payment plan, to families who would otherwise not be able to afford home ownership. Habitat’s Family Selection Committee, made up of volunteers, selects each homeowner based on the greatest need, willingness to partner with the organization, and ability to pay. The homeowners are required to commit 500 hours of “sweat equity” into their proposed home.

Monthly payments made by the homeowners are “recycled” by Habitat to buy materials to build additional houses.

Volunteers for the women’s project and other housing sites are always welcome, along with donations of cash or new building materials. For more information on FCHH, call Diane Davis at (585) 546-1470, x 304, or call Kim Schaffer for GRAWA details at (585) 274-5409.