Talk of the Town - Women's work May 14 2003

Habitat for Humanity home in Pittsburgh neighborhood

Patricia Anderson extends her latex-gloved hand for me to shake, and I take it before I realize she's already been painting early this Saturday morning — and it leaves me with gray splotches on my palm. Then, she turns back to finish painting the latticework that will cover the lower portion of her house.

For the past seven weeks, she's been working every Saturday with dozens of women, in partnership with others from the Marist School community. They're all pitching in to build Anderson's four-bedroom Habitat for Humanity house in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of south Atlanta.

The women on the site hoist ladders, lift cinderblocks and paint. The only male in the group is Anderson's 16-year-old son, Keena, who works diligently alongside the gregarious females. The house will be completed in a couple of weeks. And in a little over a month, Anderson and her three sons (Omari, Keena and Rashard) will move into the first house they can actually call their own.

Creative Loafing: It must be difficult having to sweat and toil on this house.

Anderson: No, it's not. It's actually a joy to have a hand in building my own home. Part of the deal to get a Habitat home is for me to put in 150 "sweat" hours. It's like giving birth to a child. There are the beginning stages that you go through, then you eventually give birth to this complete thing. I'll be able to say one day later in life — if I ever become a grandmother — that I helped build our very first home. Whatever I do, I think about the children.

The house is pretty far along — just some more painting and stuff. What was the hardest part?

Do you know how heavy those boards are? When we first started, we were up on the roof; we were pitching these boards up there. I didn't think I could do it. Then [Keena and I] were in the crawl space plastering and caulking. My youngest son, Omari, can't help — he's only 15. But Keena is here, working with all these women. The really fun part will be the landscaping.

With all these women around helping, do you think you'll keep in touch with anyone?

Each week, it's been a different group of volunteers. I can't remember all of their names, but I've been blessed with great volunteers — so caring, so generous and loving. [She turns to a volunteer.] Celia, did you get that paint nice and thick?

I noticed the window at the front of the house is detailed with little red flowers. I guess that shows the woman's touch.

When I went to the [Habitat] homeowners orientation meeting, I met Jill Redman and she told me, "You're getting a pretty house. It's an all-women's build." My son, Rashard, asked me, "Momma, will they do it right?" He wasn't so sure about women building the house. I guess we'll see if we get Rashard's seal of approval when we're done.