Habitat for Humanity Women Build Week kicks off in Orange County

The staff at the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan in Newburgh is donating time this week to fix up two town homes on William Street for two local families.

Ben Nandy

Mar 13, 2024, 10:01 PM

Updated 75 days ago


The five-woman staff from the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan (CFOS) passed right by their office Wednesday, to go help a fellow non-profit advocate for an expansion of women's role in the construction industry.
The staff and about 20 others donated their time to fix up two townhomes on William Street for two local families as part of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh's Women Build Week.
The annual awareness campaign was started in 1991 in part because "Women and children are the most likely to be affected by poor living conditions, and these events provide the opportunity for women to take a proactive step in serving their communities," Habitat's website reads.
"We're all in the zone," Megan Matthews of the CFOS joked as she and her office mates meticulously finished painting another section of fence for the backyard. "We got very quiet."
Matthews, the CFOS's director of development, said female perspectives on construction projects are invaluable.
"It's really about diversity," she said. "Diversity of the workforce and getting different opinions and different skill sets."
Data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics show women make up just under 11% of the country's construction labor force.
"Specifically in the construction industry, it is a male-dominated field," Habitat of Newburgh Executive Director Jill Marie Rothschild said.
She is bullish, though, on the future of women in the industry, saying she has noticed positive trends at the high school and college levels.
"Go to any CTEC/BOCES. They see the number of women in those programs rising. Those are the trades: the electricians, the plumbers," Rothschild said. "So you see that happening with our younger generations ... We're coming. There's going to be women everywhere."
Wednesday's batch of volunteers laughed about their prior lessons in insulation and home maintenance from Habitat's staff.
"There's certainly power and comfort in numbers," volunteer Andrea Bedrosian said. "So it's kind of cool we have this whole week where we get inspired and then hopefully the rest of the year [we stay inspired]."
Numbers provided by Habitat indicate the women volunteers stay inspired for longer than one week.
Rothschild said, overall, 46% of Habitat of Newburgh's volunteers are women.
She expects the homes to be move-in ready by summer.

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