By Tonja Talley
Pictures by Stacy Green Photography

Every seven minutes around the world, Habitat for Humanity serves a family in need of decent housing.

Women 2
Women of the Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County Women Build.

On August 14, 240 women in pink T-shirts and hard hats flanked the perimeter of a vacant lot in Franklin, Indiana. Even the rising sun seemed to play in the celebration of the day as it peeked in and out of the clouds that streaked the blue Indiana sky. Twelve pink decorated shovels leaned against a tree trunk in wait for the festivities. The crowd had gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of the first-ever Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County (HFHJC) Women Build. Lee Ann Wilbur, Center Grove resident and Executive Director of HFHJC, addressed the women in attendance, “It will be gratifying to someday come past this lot and know we were a part of building a house and landscaping the ground for a young mother and her two daughters to call home.”

More Women Building Habitat Homes
Women Builds have gained in popularity since 1991. It was then a group of women from Charlotte, NC, equipped themselves to build a home for a deserving woman and her family. The Women Build department of Habitat for Humanity International believes the more people they can train to become effective volunteers, the better equipped the organization will be to fight poverty housing.

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Jill Sweeney and her daughter take a break from the rain with the rest of the crew.

Slated for the September/October 2013 build is a home for a single mother with two young girls. Knowing this information, Lee Ann pitched the idea of a Women Build. Quickly the proposal grew to reality. Twelve teams of 20 women from different areas of Johnson County eagerly accepted the challenge. Starting the campaign in earnest this past January, these women raised funds, knowledge and awareness of the build.

These ladies were asked to name their teams, decorate a shovel for the groundbreaking ceremony and be responsible for raising $5,000 per team. Incentives were set for different contribution levels: a t-shirt was given for raising $250, pink hammers for $500 and pink tool belts for $1,000. However, Lee Ann says the pink fleece became the equivalent of the sought-after “Mary Kay Pink Cadillac.” This fleece could not be purchased; rather, it would be given to an elite group of women who raised over $2,000. The wonders of the pink fleece brought teams to participate in very fun and creative fundraisers. The Fancy Framers, for instance, partnered with Franklin’s Middle Davids Candles. The company designed a candle with the team’s logo on it, and the team sold them all over the county. At the same time, Ben’s Builders of Franklin College had a silent auction, while Center Grove’s Hard Hats with Hearts hosted spa parties.

Good Option
The basics are quickly mastered: measure twice, cut once!

Businesses Also Contribute
Many companies have been loyal to the women’s mission too. As a corporate partner, Lowe’s of Franklin reinforced the care and use of power tools. Employee Jim Handley conducted basic skill workshops where the ladies were taught how to read a blueprint, use tools of the trade and participate in building miniature wall forms. Lee Ann says these workshops transformed and empowered the women for the build ahead. “At the beginning of the workshop, you could see the look of panic in the girls’ eyes,” she said. “But by the end of the session, the women were confident and giving each other high fives.”
The build began in September. Each team had one day assigned to them with specific tasks to accomplish on that day. PNC Bank’s Pretty Nailing Chicks and Mutual Savings Bank’s Pink Nails started the first day by installing the subfloor and building walls, while the Hard Hats with Hearts ended the 12 days by finishing the little touch-ups in the house and yard.

Home Owners 2
The soon to be homeowner and her two girls were happy to help build their new home.

“We here at Franklin Window and Door felt very honored to be a part of the Women Build of Johnson County,” said owner Cori Brown. “As a female owner, it just made sense to me to be part of an opportunity to assist in the Women Build and give a hand up to a deserving young woman and her family.” On a personal note, Cori was a member of the Building Beauties team that framed a shed and installed door hardware.
Another new company participant in this build was Carpet Country on State Road 135 in the Center Grove area. “I, too, am a single mom and experience the same issues of trying to make ends meet. The challenges of each day can be overwhelming,” said co-manager Lisa Rode. “Carpet Country is a family-owned business, and we try to give back to the community for the support we have been given over the past 40 years. Habitat is a wonderful experience that helps bring lifelong dreams of ownership to a single mom and her children.”

Overseeing the Women Build was Center Grove’s Gorman Homes, Inc., led by owner Mike Gorman and his building crew. Before the build took place, Mike stated, “As President of Gorman Homes, a custom builder primarily on the southside, I am a firm believer in giving back to my community, and Habitat for Humanity gives me this great opportunity. I have been involved in Habitat for 26 years in many different ways, but directing over 200 ladies in the Women Build will be a first and one I am looking forward to.”

Team Leaders - Suggested
Team leaders with their decorated shovels. LeeAnn Wilbur, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County is on the far right.

Going back to that beautiful day of the groundbreaking, everyone stood on the lot visualizing the girls baking cookies in the kitchen, having their own bedrooms and a nice yard and neighborhood for the children to play. For the young mother who has partnered with HFHJC for two years and completed the required classes and “sweat equity” for ownership, the celebration brought an overwhelming amount of emotion.
The young woman and her two daughters are finally home.

If you would like to be a part of Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County and their builds, please contact them at 317-736-4454.



Tonja Talley has called Center Grove home since 1993. An 11-year bi-lateral lung transplant survivor, Tonja enjoys speaking on behalf of the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization. She also volunteers for the CF Foundation, byTavi, and her church.

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