FORT RIPLEY -- A home now under construction is not only a dream come true for a Fort Ripley woman and her six children, but is a unique project being built almost exclusively by women.
For more than a year, a group of area women have been meeting to plan the first Women Build project accomplished by Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity. The project broke ground Monday when about 25 volunteers started to construct a home in Fort Ripley for Michelle Gosse, 30, and her six children, ages 1 1/2 to 12. The majority of the exterior construction work was expected to be completed by today with electrical and interior work completed by October.
Many times even on a volunteer work site, women can be relegated to secondary roles, sometimes because of their own lack of confidence. But the Women Build Program was established by Habitat for Humanity International to promote the involvement of women in the construction of Habitat homes.
More than 300 Women Build projects have been completed through Habitat for Humanity International and the Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity was the fourth Habitat affiliate in Minnesota to host a Women Build work site, said Kevin Pelkey, executive director of the Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity.
While there were men working at the Fort Ripley work site this week, many of them moved aside as the women took active leadership roles in the construction of the home.
Michelle Gosse (center), Fort Ripley, shared a laugh with her daughter, Heather, 9, and son, Michael, 12, after she took a break from working at the Habitat for Humanity home she and her six children, ages 1 1/2 to 12, will move into this fall.
Laurie Ziebell, of Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity, said that while women were encouraged to work on this project, it did not mean men were excluded from volunteering.
"This is a little more conducive for women getting in there to learn, rather than standing back and letting the men lead," said Ziebell. "The men here know they are not to take the lead but they're here to instruct."
Karen Clarine, Brainerd, started to take part in Habitat for Humanity building projects four years ago because she wanted to learn how she herself could tackle home repair projects on her own.
"I'm a single woman and I've learned a lot of things," Clarine said of her involvement in Habitat projects. "Plus, it's a good feeling to be able to help someone."
The Fort Ripley work site was the first Habitat project that Nancy Redshaw, Baxter, has worked on. A Garfield Elementary School second-grade teacher, Redshaw said she had never before undertaken a home construction job.
Mary Jo Neumann, Crosslake, firmly held onto a rafter as it was being attached to the roof of the Habitat for Humanity home she was helping to build this week in Fort Ripley.
"It's amazing how fast the house can go up and how women who had no experience are really getting into it," said Redshaw.
Redshaw and several other women spent Wednesday lifting rafters onto the home. When a few women complained that their shoulders were getting sore, one female volunteer demonstrated how a yoga stretching move could help alleviate the soreness.
"Now that's something you'd never see on an all-male work site -- a yoga lesson," said Ziebell with a laugh.
"I'm really excited about this house. I just want to live in it right now," said 12-year-old Michael Gosse, who hung out at the work site this week, helping hand tools and glasses of lemonade to the volunteers along with his sister, Heather, 9.
"It will be much different than having the ceiling leak on you when it rains," Michelle Gosse told her son.
Gosse said she, her boyfriend, Chris Franzen, and her six children are anticipating the completion of their six-bedroom home. Gosse said she and her children are living in a dilapidated old home not far from the site of her home being constructed by Habitat for Humanity. The home is unsafe for the large family to live in.
Gosse has spent many hours at the site of her home, working alongside the other volunteers. She has to volunteer 300 hours to be able to receive the home, but she suspected she would be out there every day until they are able to move in. She said she and her family are grateful for the help they've received to make this home a reality.
"Without Habitat, we wouldn't ever own a home," said Gosse.
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