- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Janae Robinson doesn’t know much about building houses, but last week, the 27-year-old data entry clerk at IU Health was swinging a hammer and raising the walls on her new home.

For the next several weeks, she’ll be joined by a team of volunteers on a two-fold mission: to provide affordable housing to those in need and to empower women.

The second annual Women Build project of Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity is bringing together 300-plus women to build a five-bedroom single-family home for Robinson and her five children on the Southeastside, near Beech Grove.

The volunteers are not only providing the labor on the home; they raised $104,000 for the project and the Greater Indy Habitat mission.

Robinson is in awe of the support she has received and the knowledge she’s gained since she applied for the Habitat program last year.

“I’m just so excited, and my kids are excited,” she said. “I’ve been working on other people’s houses as part of the program, but it’s mostly painting. This is more exciting because we started from the very beginning, and it’s all women. I just love that.”

Over 21 days, teams of about 15 female volunteers - everyone from company presidents to students - will don hard hats and get to work building the home on Van Buren Street.

Robinson doesn’t have any construction experience, she said, “but I’m willing to learn. It’s my house.”

She and her children currently live in a three-bedroom apartment on the Northeastside, where there’s no good outdoor space to play. She knew she needed to provide a better home for her family but didn’t know how she could afford it.

Then her grandmother told her about Habitat for Humanity.

“I looked it up, signed up and did everything they asked me to do. Now, I’m here. I’m blessed and ready to get going.”

Applicants for Habitat for Humanity homes must have an income of $30,000 to $50,000 and complete 300 hours of “sweat equity” to earn the keys to their new home. That sweat equity includes working on other Habitat homes as well as their own, and completing home maintenance and financial literacy courses. The mortgage is interest-free.

Sponsorships help pay expenses, including land and recruitment costs, said Abri Hochstetler, marketing and communications coordinator for Greater Indy Habitat. Fundraising helps pay for building costs, and the mortgage payments help fund future projects.

“Last year was our first women-build project, and they blew it out of the water,” Hochstetler said. “We beat our goal by $20,000. It’s a fun and effective way to spread the word about the need for affordable housing and to empower women, to help them feel comfortable on a build site.”

One team of volunteers is made up of women who work in the construction industry, but many of those who will participate have never used a power tool.

Susan Van Hoosen volunteered for the first time last year to honor her late husband. One of Trent Van Hoosen’s goals was to participate in a Habitat build, but he never got the chance. He died 2 1/2 years ago.

“So I eased into it with mixed emotions last year, and wow, what a neat experience,” she said.

So neat that Van Hoosen, owner of Inspired by Fitness in Fishers, decided to be a team leader this year, which meant raising money for the build. Her team’s goal was $10,000. They raised $11,255, the most of any team for this project.

“You surround yourself with strong, powerful women and just ask for the donations and the blessings to occur,” she said. “I wanted to honor Trent in this way and knock it out of the park. I honestly think I had help from above.”

Robinson had the chance to meet Van Hoosen and others involved at the build kick-off event for her home last week.

“I’m so blessed to have you all working with me,” she told the women. “I’m ready to get going.”

Van Hoosen hugged her and told her, “It’s our privilege, truly. You have 300 women coming together for you and your family.”

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Source: Indianapolis Star, https://indy.st/1KRcIaz

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com


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