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Habitat for Humanity reaches out to female builders

A small group of women huddled in the lumber department at Lowe's in Bedford Saturday afternoon, listening to tips on how to handle power tools as part of Greater Manchester Habitat for Humanity's Women Build program.

Fred Eurieck of Derry, who has 35 years of construction experience under his tool belt, explained how to use cordless drills, skill saws, sawzalls and chop saws to the group, who want to be fully involved in rebuilding Habitat's current project, a three-decker on Hosley Street in Manchester.

Eurieck talked about different settings and uses for each of the tools while continually emphasizing the need for care and safety.

"Everything you want to do can be done," he told the group. "It's just a matter of time and technique."

Habitat for Humanity launched the Women Build arm of the national organization in 1998 to teach construction skills to women who wanted to be involved in the mission of building homes for families in need.

Organizers found that some women were reluctant to sign on with different projects because they lacked the skills and experience of male volunteers.

For the past 15 years, local chapters of Habitat for Humanity have been reaching out to women with training in different construction and maintenance skills. Lowe's, a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity, has added its support with classes and instructors like Eurieck.

Some women who attend Women Build classes are starting from scratch.

"I just started woodworking and knowing how to use these tools is empowering," said Hooksett resident Kara Gagnon.

Natalie Lau-Chien of Bedford had some practice with tools and construction but was ready to take on more challenges.

"I want to learn to do stuff myself," she said.

Habitat for Humanity stresses that the point of the Women Build program isn't to exclude men, it's to enable more women to become involved.

May is the organization's Women Build month, and Greater Manchester Habitat for Humanity is sponsoring two more workshops.

On April 30 at 6 p.m. there will be a class on how to build a deck at Lowe's on River Road in Bedford. On May 9 at 6 p.m., home improvement expert Tina Gleisner will present "How to Maintain Your Home Without Going Broke or Crazy" at the Greater Manchester Habitat for Humanity office at 250 Commercial St.

Two Women Build days are scheduled at the Hosley Street project on May 4 and 9. Work starts at 9 a.m., runs until 4 p.m. and lunch is provided.

Before Saturday's class ended, Eurieck encouraged the women to come back with any questions about tools or building.

"You guys can always find me here," he said. "I consider myself a teacher more than an employee of a big-box store."

That was good news for Greater Manchester Habitat For Humanity organizer Kathy Lombard, who hopes more women take advantage of the training and the opportunity to volunteer.

"If enough women who know what to do show up, we could have our own women work crews," she said.

btaormina@newstote.com



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