GOWERS CORNER — Just off U.S. 41 is a miniature pink house sporting a sign edged in zebra print. It directs travelers to a Women Build site on Gainesville Road, where a real house is being built by the pink hardhatted women of Habitat for Humanity of East and Central Pasco.
Their fourth annual Women Build is aimed at encouraging female volunteers to participate in the construction of houses. The goal is for the build to consist of 75 percent women and 25 percent men.
"Women make up 50 percent of our volunteers, but only 10 percent throughout the nation show up at the construction site," said Stephanie Black, spokeswoman for east Pasco Habitat. "It's not about excluding men, it's about including women and empowering them."
Several men were present at the work site on Friday, the third day of the seven-day build. Three were Habitat employees, while other men were "Care-A-Vanners," travelers who stay at Habitat campgrounds in their RVs and chip in with local builds.
About 50 women have been working on the build on any given day, with some working for one day and others returning for the duration of the build. Altogether, about 100 female volunteers are participating in this year's build.
Team leader Lisa Knous, 43, wears a pink helmet that she bedazzled herself. She has been volunteering with Habitat for five years and has attended all of the Women Builds in east and central Pasco.
"The Women Builds are fun because you get a mixture of women. You get Care-A-Vanners, you get retirees, you get lawyers and doctors working on it," Knous said. "You get that at the other (builds) too, but the Women Build is more of a camaraderie, where it's like a togetherness."
The women also gain experience they can use in their daily lives.
"I learned skills working on these houses that I've put towards everyday life," Knous said. "It's nothing for me to grab a hammer and fix something at home or take apart a sink."
Habitat for Humanity homes are not given away for free. Instead, they are sold to their recipients at cost with a 30-year, zero-interest mortgage. Payments are about $500 a month.
"We don't give away homes, we give away opportunity," Black said. "It's a hand up, not a handout."
This Women Build house will be about 1,200 square feet and will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The recipient is Tiffany Porter, who works as the director of the food pantry and outreach center of Victorious Life Church. Though she will move into the house alone, she plans to be a foster parent.
Porter has enjoyed putting in some of the required 400 "sweat equity" volunteer hours to help build this home and others, even though her construction experience is limited to a sixth-grade shop class.
"It's been great," said Porter, who turns 29 next week. "It's good to work with the other ladies and be a part of building the house."
Porter said she was amazed at how fast the Habitat staff and volunteers work.
"I came to see the property and nothing was here, and like three days later, I came out here and they had the slab done and the walls were coming up," Porter said. "They're very friendly and they move very quickly. They're wonderful."
Friday's build focused on installing hurricane clips and working on the interior framing. The build will continue today and conclude on May 4, during National Women Build Week. Before the house is completed, the volunteers will sign it, likely on the white moisture barrier that will be covered by the siding. Though they will not be visible when the house is finished, words of encouragement and blessings will always be a part of the house.
Porter will get the keys May 11.
Samantha Fuchs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6235.