Habitat’s Women Build anchored by 40 local teams

Almost 40 teams of approximately 10 women each are participating in this year’s Women Build initiative by Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland. The construction of two homes for two single mothers began in late February, and is continuing in the Southgate Hills Subdivision on South Lee Highway, just beyond the highway’s intersection with APD 40. The initiative unites teams of women of all ages and skill levels to build homes for families in need of the stability a Habitat home can help provide. This year’s new homeowners will be Amber Smith, and her 2-year-old daughter, Brylee; and LaTonya Clark, a single mother of three children, Clayshion, 6; Brooklyn, 1; and Brysten, 4 months. Smith and her daughter say they love living in Bradley County. She attended Bradley Central High School, and she is currently working at a Dollar General store. While she aspires to become a registered nurse, she really enjoys where she is working now. Smith and her daughter are currently sharing a room in her mom’s house. The house is nice, but they are very overcrowded. This hard-working mom already has a full-time job, and on her days off she volunteers at the Habitat ReStore. She says, “I have always worked hard for the things I want out of life. Now that I am a single mom and raising my daughter on my own, I try to work even harder to give her the best life I possibly can.” Clark, has lived in Bradley County for 12 years. As a single mother, she has been working at the Duracell warehouse for four years. She and her children currently live in a townhome located on a very busy street, and her kids are not able to play outside. Clark’s current home is also too small for a family of four. Having a safe home for her children has been a goal Clark has had for a long time. Clark likes that Habitat for Humanity requires sweat equity hours. She said, “It really shows your appreciation, and it’s your way of giving back to the community.” The opportunity to build a home for a family is satisfying for participants in the annual Women Build. Some of the volunteers are experienced in this type of effort, while others have never used a hammer or a power tool. Team participants in this year’s initiative include: Bank of Cleveland, Bayer Healthcare, the Blue Women Group, Bradley Central High students sponsored by Athens Federal Community Bank, Bradley Central High School teachers, Bradley Sunrise Rotary, CHI Memorial Team No. 1, CHI Memorial Team No. 2, Circle of Friends, Cleveland High School Students sponsored by Tennessee Sen. Mike Bell, Cleveland Middle School Transformers, Cleveland State Community College, First United Methodist Elan Circle, FSG Bank, Grace Point, Hammer Time, Kiwanis Club of Cleveland, Mally B’s Boutique, and Mayfield Elementary; Team Morgan No. 1, Team Morgan No. 2, Orange Blossom Boutique, PEO Sisterhood Chapter AL Team, Plastic Surgery Clinic, SANTEK Sassy Sallies, Simply Chic Boutique, Southern Heritage Bank No. 1, Southern Heritage Bank No. 2, Southern Heritage Bank No. 3, the SONshine Team, St. Therese Women of Faith, UNVEILED Team, Walker Valley High School students sponsored by State Sen. Todd Gardenhire and State Rep. Dan Howell, Wesley Memorial FOCUS Team, Whirlpool Corporation No. 1, Whirlpool Corporation No. 2, Wolfpack Team, and Yates Primary School. The opportunity to assist this year’s two new homeowners is satisfying to the women who participate. “I love Women Build because these teams of women come out for a great purpose, but also for great support of one another,” said Lisa Geren, 2015 and 2016 Women Build Committee member. “These women are incredible,” Geren added. “They keep their home and family organized, maintain jobs and still find time to build a home for another family. It is a gratifying, team-building experience that often brings these teams even closer together. I look forward to hearing more great stories this year about the building teams and their experiences.” This year’s title sponsors are Toyota of Cleveland and Whirlpool, and foundation sponsors include FSG Bank and Publix Supermarkets Charities. In order to be a part of Women Build 2016, each team must have a team leader who recruits five to 10 women to be on a team. Women Build is a “pay-to-play” volunteer experience in which each team member pays a $50 build fee. The $50 fee goes back into funding the construction of the two homes the teams will be building. This is a unique volunteer experience because Women Build teams are building the two homes from start to finish through their donation of hours on-site and the cash donation. Each team’s donations will purchase construction materials necessary to build both houses.

‘Hard Hats and Heels’ Saturday

Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland is on the threshold of its third annual Hard Hats and Heels gala. Saturday’s 6 p.m. celebration at Toyota of Cleveland, the event’s sponsor, will be in conjunction with Habitat’s Women Build initiative. The automotive firm has been a title sponsor for the Women Build initiative and has hosted the Hard Hats and Heels celebration since 2014. The gala is a unique event, taking place in the auto dealer’s maintenance shop. This makes it an event unlike any other. Saturday’s celebration will be catered by Tasteful Gatherings and will have adult beverages provided by Tarver Distributing and Ooltewah Discount Liquors. The event includes a charity raffle, a silent auction and a live auction Hard Hat Fashion Show. The evening will also feature jazz music by local musicians Shawn Perkinson, Shaun Sneed, Patrick Keeling and Dan York. The event’s live auction portion will feature high-value items including a Whirlpool custom double oven, a Tennessee Titans sports package, Bristol Speedway tickets, and a seven-day vacation to the Royal Haciendas Resort in Cancun, Mexico. The silent auction includes more than 50 prize packages donated from local businesses. The charity raffle items are some of the best offerings of the evening. In addition to the 28 different items, there will be a drawing for a $1,000 cash prize, presented by Cleveland Insurance and Grange Insurance. For every $2 ticket purchased, the guest will automatically be entered into the cash prize drawing. Toyota of Cleveland’s general manager, Monte Burney, recently moved to Cleveland with his family from Montgomery, Ala. He expressed excitement about the Habitat gala, this year’s Women Build, and the opportunity to be in Cleveland. “I’m honored and excited to be working with an amazing family-owned group in Bowers Automotive, and look forward to growing a customer-focused team, developing future leaders within the business and making Toyota of Cleveland one of the best places to purchase and service your vehicle,” said Burney. “I’m most excited for my wife and I to share Cleveland and Chattanooga with our daughter, Bella.” Officials with Toyota Motor Corporation say their mission is to build more than just great cars. They want to help build great places to live. “Any way we can use our platform to garner exposure for a great cause (like Habitat for Humanity) we will; it’s all about being a great steward of the resources you’ve been blessed with in order to help others,” said Burney. All of the proceeds from this year’s Hard Hats and Heels event will go toward building the Habitat homes of Amber Smith and LaTonya Clark, the two future homeowners who are a part of the Habitat Homeownership Program. Both of these women have worked hard to provide the best life possible for their family. “I believe Habitat is important to any community,” said Burney. “Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland is doing great work within the community and that’s evident in the passion and amount of work they’re pouring into this fundraiser.” Organizers of the Women Build, and Saturday evening’s gala event, emphasize Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland seeks to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to “build and repair homes, communities and hope.” They said Habitat provides a long-term impact that changes the lives of families in Bradley County by partnering with them to build better lives and stronger communities. For more information about Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, visit habitatofcleveland.org.

Photo: PARTICIPANTS IN THIS year’s Women Build for Habitat for Humanity were building more than new homes. They were building, and strengthening, personal relationships. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO.

Story by: Larry C. Bowers - Cleveland Daily Banner