05/04/2012 04:58 pm ET Updated Jul 04, 2012

Women Building Homes For Women

Through my experiences with Habitat for Humanity I have seen how decent and affordable housing can have a significant impact on a woman's life -- both for the volunteer and the homeowner.

Not too long ago, I met a woman in Americus, Ga., who was volunteering to help build a Habitat house. As we worked side by side, we discussed how she had volunteered for more than 20 years with Habitat for Humanity.

She went on to tell me that she got involved with Habitat when she was contributing "sweat equity" by helping build her own Habitat home. She said she remembered being proud of her new home when she first moved into it, and she was proud to tell me that she had paid off her mortgage. It was easy to see that owning a decent home that was affordable had changed her life, and she wanted to do whatever she could to help make that dream a reality for other families. Her story touched my heart.

As the first female chair of Habitat for Humanity International's board of directors, I am eager to elevate the visibility of women in all aspects of Habitat's work. Habitat's Women Build program, underwritten by Lowe's, is a great opportunity to make an impact because the program benefits more than the homeowner family. It also helps raise awareness about Habitat's mission and the importance of decent, affordable housing for families. For women volunteers, it provides the opportunity to learn new skills and work together to accomplish something very tangible. That's why thousands of volunteers join Habitat every year for National Women Build week, May 5-13, including myself. I will be working on a build site this year in Denver.

As an organization dedicated to eliminating poverty housing, Habitat for Humanity needs the support of all people, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender, to take part in helping us build or repair decent and affordable homes in partnership with low-income families. That's why it is crucial to involve more women in our work.

Now in its fifth year, National Women Build Week, challenges women to devote at least one day to creating simple, decent and affordable housing in their local communities. Nearly 31,000 women volunteers from all 50 states have participated in the previous four events.

With this year's theme, "The Build Generation," our goal is to recruit and train women volunteers, as well as welcome the next generation of Habitat Women Builders -- young women, ages 18-24 -- to help support Habitat's mission to create affordable housing.

I'm very proud to say that this year's event will include 275 active construction sites and construction learning opportunities across the country. Nearly 3,000 women will gather for "How-To" clinics at Lowe's stores and up to 10,000 women volunteers will then use their construction skills to work alongside low-income families at Habitat build sites nationwide during the week leading up to Mother's Day.

We hope that you'll join us on a build during National Women Build Week. While Women Build projects focus on encouraging female volunteers, male volunteers are also invited to build.

For more information on Habitat for Humanity's Women Build program and to learn about Women Build projects in communities across the U.S., visit

Join in the Women Build conversation by following #WomenBuild on Twitter or by joining our Facebook group.