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Women raising walls for Habitat for Humanity in CdA

Thu., May 8, 2014

Sean Blankenship watched with anticipation as the exterior walls went up on his new Habitat for Humanity house Tuesday afternoon.

The single dad hopes to move into the three-bedroom home in Coeur d’Alene this fall with his four school-aged children. “I love this neighborhood with the older-style homes,” Blankenship said. “There’s hardly any traffic, so I won’t have to worry about the kids riding their bikes.”

He also had words of praise for the framing crew.

“These ladies are really nice. They’re having fun, and I’m having fun,” Blankenship said.

About 60 female volunteers will swing hammers, run saws and tote 2-by-4s on Blankenship’s future home as part of National Women Build Week. The event is sponsored by Lowe’s, which is contributing $5,000 toward construction costs.

Many of the women are new to construction and power tools. Volunteer Lana Spencer got her initiation on using a nail gun Wednesday from a veteran Habitat volunteer, Trudy Elliott.

“She’s the nail gun queen now. Ka-ching, ka-ching,” teased Elliott.

“Everyone is so patient,” said Spencer, who said she enjoyed the supportive, learning atmosphere at the Habitat construction site.

Penny Weiss, another first-time volunteer, learned to cut boards on a chop saw.

“I see my husband using (the saw) all the time, but he’s never had to involve me,” she said.

“I’ve heard him when the cuts are wrong, so I know it’s important to get them right so you don’t waste wood.”

By the end of the week, the house should be completely framed and ready for the trusses. So, while the experience is friendly and fun, Habitat construction director Greg Nowak keeps the volunteers on schedule. One of the exterior walls slipped while the women were raising it, and parts of it had to be re-nailed.

“I don’t take it easy on them because they’re women,” Nowak said. “We show them how to do it the safe way, and make it as hands-on as possible.”

Blankenship, who works at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, learned just last weekend that he’d been selected for the house.

He’s put several hundred hours of sweat equity into other Habitat building projects over the past couple of years, and he’ll make zero-interest mortgage payments on the property.

He’s eager to get out of a rental near a busy street. Blankenship can picture the backyard of his new home a couple of years from now.

“My dog’s going to be wagging his tail, and my daughter’s going to want a swing set,” he said.

Stories such as Blankenship’s make the work fulfilling, said Elliott, a retired nurse.

“There’s such a power in home ownership,” she said.

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