The Habitat for Humanity volunteer crew at the West Franklin Street build in Alcoa looks a little different than most, but not because of Roxy’s visit.

Roxy the dog is construction assistant and worksite companion. She’s been a part of several builds, a common sight for years.

The uncommon team on the current build is the Blount County nonprofit’s Women Build, an effort to get more women interested in joining the team. On any other Habitat build, the ratio of construction volunteers is 10% women and 90% men.

The Women Build is done every two years in Blount County, said Vanessa Sparks, development director for Habitat for Humanity. This year there are 24 women on the Women Build Committee who have been working for months on fundraising and team development.

They include Tracy Queen, Amanda Horn, Ann Drake, Beth Pyle, Andrea Knight, Breanna Endsley, Crystal Burns, Donnelle Collins, Jennifer Price, Joy Eargle, Katherine Kroll, Karen Stiles, Kelly Forster, Laura Burchfield, Lynda Blakenship, Mary Martin, Michelle McCaulley, Misty Crisp, Nancy Zambell, Regina Foy, Regina Jennings, Renee McCammon, Sparks and Kate Robinson.

On June 6, under overcast skies, women committed to the build worked at the site and had at least one wall up by midmorning. Doug Jenkins, construction supervisor and owner of Roxy, said if things go well and there are no weather delays, the house will be move-in ready by mid-September.

Fundraising consisted of a luncheon last year and one held just recently. Sparks said the two events raised almost $50,000.

“Today is really a PR day for us,” she said onsite on June 6. “We want to get other women in the community to come out and build.”

As for who can volunteer, Sparks said practically anyone; there is no experience necessary and you don’t have to have your own tools. “You need to come with closed-toe shoes and a can-do attitude,” Sparks said. “We supply the tools and knowledge.”

It wasn’t a women-only team onsite Thursday. Sparks said it’s called the Women Build to empower more women to take part. Men are also welcome to help on this one.

Time to sign up

On upcoming work details, about 10 to 12 volunteers are needed each day, Sparks said. People can sign up as individuals or get their church fellowship together and participate. The Women’s Build is different in another way as well. It’s not sponsored by a business that would typically fill those work days. Hence, more volunteers are being sought.

Jenkins said there are three Habitat houses under construction. One is being build by Maryville First United Methodist Church in honor of longtime volunteer Bill Mueller, who is 91. The other is sponsored by Altar’d State, a business whose headquarters is located in Maryville. Altar’d State built a home last year in the community, using employees who volunteered.

Mueller got involved with Habitat back in 1994 and has worked on more than 100 builds. His current build is located on Bessie Harvey Avenue in Alcoa.

“The Bill Mueller home will close first, the Altar’d State home and then this one,” Jenkins said.

Completing a home ranges from three to six months.

When the homes are complete, dedications are held as Habitat hands over the keys to the new homeowners.

They have gone through budgeting training and problem solving and work on their homes and other Habitat builds.

They are given affordable mortgages.

Many of the Habitat homeowners are single moms, like Miranda Van Hoy, who took possession of her home in Alcoa back in April. She has two daughters who are 11 and 13.

Then there is Nyadeng Kuot, a refugee from Sudan. She shares her Habitat for Humanity home on Wright Road in Alcoa, which was last year’s Altar’d State build, with her daughter. A total of 1,000 hours of volunteer service by Altar’d State associates went into the home.

According to Habitat for Humanity, more than 16,000 people in Blount County live in poverty; 5,328 of the 16,000-plus people are children or the elderly. Blount County Habitat for Humanity has been in existence for 25 years.

The Women Build represents its 163rd home. Kathy Jackson serves as Habitat’s executive director and Sarah Hooks, as program director.

Amanda Horn and Nancy Zambell, members of the Women Build Committee, were there on that morning, getting the walls up. Horn is a mortgage lender and Zambell is in the real estate business.

The two said they love the Habitat model of providing affordable housing for those willing to partner with the agency.

Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.

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