Everyone knows that the cornerstone of great reality shows is challenges, the more wildly inventive and seemingly impossible the better. This isn’t a story about The Great British Bake Off or America Ninja Warrior. But imagine there are groups of women who are asked to build walls for use in Habitat for Humanity homes. They are given hammers, nails, tape measures, among other tools, and because this is happening during the pandemic, instructions are provided at a virtual clinic through Zoom. They only have 24 hours to complete their project. Most reality series participants would agree that there is satisfaction in beating the clock and accomplishing a rigorous task. In this strictly volunteer opportunity, which took place in Greenville, SC, there is also a beneficiary of their hard work, a family who will receive wall systems for their future home. Making a difference in someone’s life is a win that the women of A M King will take any day.
Before COVID, A M King architect Catherine Knight enjoyed working with Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County. When she heard about their virtual wall-building initiative this year, she rallied a team of her female colleagues to join 10 other local companies in kicking off International Women Build Week 2021 —an annual weeklong event created by Habitat’s Women Build program in partnership with Lowe’s. The 2021 event ran March 8-15.
Habitat staff dropped off the wall systems at A M King’s Greenville office on the designated day last week. In addition, Habitat provided a bucket with Women Build t-shirts, masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, nail pouches and tools. The women made quick work of their wall project and were ready when Habitat returned a day later to pick it up. Then the group attended a Happy Hour Zoom, where they were introduced to the future Habitat homeowner who would receive the wall systems for her house.
“It was a wonderful experience being able to bond with the women at the A M King Greenville office and learn the finer points of building a wall together,” says Catherine Knight. “Our team assembled that wall in record time and wished we had another one to build. I feel very fortunate to be part of a company that values giving back to the community and actively encourages its employees to become involved in activities to support the community at large.”
In 1991, a group of women in Charlotte, N.C., completed the first women-built Habitat for Humanity house. With this event, the seeds for Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program were planted. In 1998, Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) formed the Women Build department and the Women Build program became an official HFHI initiative. Ten years later, Lowe’s sponsored National Women Build Week, held in the days leading up to Mother’s Day. About 6,000 women volunteers participated at more than 150 Habitat affiliates across the United States. In 2020, Lowe’s donation of $1.9 million to Habitat’s International Women Build Week supported more than 230 Women Build projects. This year, Lowe’s increased its donation to nearly $2.7 million to support more than 300 Women Build projects.
Globally, economic turmoil caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already tenuous affordable housing crisis and has impacted women-led households disproportionately, according to a recent Habitat for Humanity news report. As a result, substantially more women-led households have been forced to choose between rent or mortgage and other essential bills, such as utilities or health care.
According to Habitat’s website, “Our goal with Women Build is to empower women to help families build strength, stability and independence. We at Habitat have the ability to provide opportunities for hands-on learning, and given these tools, women can succeed in changing their communities.”
“This was my first attempt at a Habitat build, but I’m confident it won’t be the last,” says Rita Gosnell, A M King Project Assistant. “The four of us got down to business and got it done and I think the guys we work with were impressed with our success! We were able to personalize our work by signing our names and writing well wishes on the studs when we finished. It was a great sense of accomplishment because a family will benefit from this build.”
A M King makes community engagement a priority, evidenced by strong partnerships with many other community organizations, such as 24 Foundation (24 Hours of Booty,); Starmount Academy of Excellence (Fill the Truck); and the Salvation Army of Charlotte and Salvation Army Serving Greenville, SC (Angel Tree Program).
At each event and with every challenge, A M King is there to lend a hand—hard hats, warm hearts, masks and all.