Elizabeth Bauder had a message for the 65 women gathered at the 2020 Women Build Community Launch, a “community activation event” hosted Jan. 9 by Fauquier Habitat for Humanity: “Every woman here has power: to build a family, to build a home, to build community. But when we all gather like this together, that’s how we have an impact. We see it so powerfully with what we are about to build with Women Build.”
Bauder is a volunteer co-chair of the Women Build committee for Fauquier Habitat for Humanity and a senior resource development specialist for Habitat for Humanity International.
The Habitat event, held at Gloria’s in Warrenton, was part of a new fundraising and organizing strategy intended to harness the power of local working women. Late in 2019, each of 10 team leaders were recruited to enlist at least 10 team members, who would in turn commit to raise at least $250 each and to participate in building a new house on Remington’s West Bowen Street this June.
Team names reflected the irresistibly positive tone of the gathering: “The Glow Getters,” “The Hammer Hunnies” and “The Honeybees.”
Sally Mae Foster, a folk musician based in Front Royal, performed on stage as lively conversations and laughter bounced around the venue.
After Thursday’s event, 93 women -- including 14 who were newcomers -- had committed to the project and $5,890 had been raised toward the goal of $25,000. A PATH Foundation grant will match – two to one -- each dollar raised through the project. All funds will go toward covering the cost of the building project in Remington.
The Women Build program has had a presence in Fauquier County since 2005, but the model for this project is new. By using the “pay-to-play” approach, organizers hope to energize a core of volunteers who will be fundraisers as well as builders. And by spreading the word through personal social media posts, the goal is to form a more personally connected community of volunteers.
The same model was used with the “Rock the Block” event on Haiti Street last year, said Elizabeth Rose, associate director of development at Fauquier Habitat for Humanity. “Each Women Build volunteer raised money to participate and then volunteered alongside the residents in the neighborhood” to improve home exteriors.
It is because of that event’s success that the model is being used for this June’s build in Remington, she said.
Organizational structure aside, this project’s energy comes from organic, one-on-one connections, and uses social media to reach out, said Rose. For instance, attendee Miggy Strano’s Facebook post about the project spurred three other women to join the effort. “I’ve been following Habitat and trying to figure out how to get involved and then I saw the Facebook post for Women Build.” She signed up and posted about the event to a local advocacy group on Facebook.
Strano’s friend Kim Gibson saw that post and immediately joined up. “I think we get very energized from one another,” Gibson said of women-led projects. “I don’t think we play ‘king of the mountain’ as much as guys do.” Instead, she said, women are more likely to want to jump in and support each other.
Others, like Amanda Wyne Luhowiak, came across the project by chance. “Honestly I was looking on the Gloria’s website for cool music and I saw” the event on the calendar, she said.
Regardless of how they got there, attendees said they excited to celebrate strong women while making a real difference in the lives of their neighbors. “I think sometimes it’s just fun to have an excuse to be out and for us to be girls and we’re also doing great things for the community,” said Luhowiak.
The dates for the three-day “framing blitz” in June have yet to be determined, but there are already five monthly “Power Hour” training sessions scheduled to help equip volunteers with the skills they will need for the build. More information can be found at fauquierhabitat.org or on the Fauquier Habitat Women Build Facebook page.