The blue vacuum cleaner left in the field at Haven Street and Fourth Avenue didn’t suck away anything from the home-building celebration Sunday.
Somebody put the battered Eureka on the lot after the other rubble had been cleared away - a gag playing on the fact that the carpenters on this new home aren’t typical construction workers.
“I figure it was a sexist pig who put it here,” said Melanie Alexander, one of the co-chairs of the publicity committee for the project.
The first Habitat for Humanity home in Spokane to be built entirely by women will be located on the land. More than 800 women are expected to donate $100 each and at least a day’s work to build the duplex.
Dia Hadley, executive director of Habitat for Humanity, held the Eureka in her left hand and a hammer in her right hand at a ground-blessing ceremony Sunday.
“We’re trading this tool for this tool,” said Hadley, waving the hammer. “And we want to empower women to use this.”
The house, tan with brown trim, will be the 44th Habitat for Humanity house nationwide built by women. It will be the 34th Habitat home in Spokane.
The women’s project blessed the ground on Sunday, Mother’s Day, and introduced the two families who will live in the one-story duplex. A blue-and-white construction trailer sat nearby. Construction will begin later this month.
Almost 150 people held hands at the ceremony and sang “Kumbaya” and “If I Had a Hammer.”
The families each planted herbs in soil taken from the lot. They plan to water them and bring the herbs into their new homes, which should be finished by October.
Men probably will help with the project, especially in teaching specialty trades, said Donna Miller, a co-chair on the home’s construction committee.
“It’s really, really surprising and interesting - the women who have stepped forward to help build it,” Miller said. “It’s really been a challenge and a treat.”
The project has grown. Organizers first wanted to build a single home and find 400 volunteers. Now, they’re building a duplex with an expected 800 volunteers.
“The thing that’s unique about this is we’re women from all over,” Alexander said. “It’s been such an easy sell, it’s almost scary.”
Kathy Dow decided she wanted to get involved. She has started learning how to stencil and hang wallpaper.
“I thought, yes, this is something I want to do,” Dow said. “I want to drywall. I want to learn it all. I can’t wait to get started.”
Neither can Shirley Watson. She has worked on about 10 Habitat homes, but this one will be for her and four of her children. Her daughters already have picked out their room.
Watson, a school bus driver, learned about Habitat from two children who ride on her route. Both live in Habitat homes.
“It’s the best Mother’s Day I could ever have,” she said. “How many mothers get a new home for Mother’s Day?”
At least one other - Mary Siegel. A year and a half ago, after a divorce and other problems, she decided she wanted her own home. Six of her children will live with her.
The one-story home will be accessible for wheelchairs because Siegel has cerebral palsy and often uses a wheelchair.
She has put in lots of hours volunteering at the Habitat office to earn a home. She has been renting homes for 17 years, and her current home isn’t accessible to wheelchairs.
“This was my goal,” Siegel said. “It’s really nice. As long as it’s disabled-access, I’m happy.”