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Women Build: Group gets to work on Cape home

By Staff | Apr 28, 2015

They came just after sunrise to a home on Northeast 2nd Avenue in Cape Coral. Dozens of women signing their names and doing their part to help a single mother achieve her dream of owning her own home.

This is Women Build, a national initiative of Habitat for Humanity founded five years ago. They come in to help rehab and refurbish homes for other women.

More than 30 women, and a few men, came to lend their support to Marisol Santiago, a single mother of three who got her Habitat for Humanity home, holding a small ceremony and a class in drywall repair before getting to work.

Women Build comes in toward the final two weeks to clean, paint and do some light landscaping to make the house feel like a home.

Kitty Green, Habitat CEO, said Women Build is an open invitation for women to help other women (though men are also invited), who are the primary recipients of Habitat homes.

“We take an existing home and put a lot of love and effort into it. In two weeks we hand it over to the homeowner,” Green said. “I found out about it five years ago and thought it would be a great way to invite women to get involved locally. It’s a great community effort.”

Green said when all is said and done, more than 300 women will have been involved, be it through fundraising, sponsorship and working on the home.

Women Build raises $100,000 in order to buy two homes to refurbish. The Cape Coral home was a foreclosure and one of the rare homes that was in decent shape.

A similar home was being refurbished in San Carlos Park, with the goal of turning the keys over on May 9, the day before Mother’s Day.

Sandy Collins, site supervisor, said for the next two weeks, there would be lots of work and elbow grease to get the house looking immaculate.

“It’s just like Habitat except its women building houses for women,” said site supervisor Sandy Collins. “We had the roof replaced and they’ve redone the plumbing. We’ll be cleaning and painting and patching holes, getting the house ready for the homeowner.”

Santiago followed the same guidelines as other Habitat owners. She had to do 300 hours of community service (sweat equity), take 14 hours of home ownership classes and come up with $2,000 in closing costs in order to qualify for an interest free loan that consumes just 30 percent of her monthly income.

For Santiago, whose journey began in August, the long wait has been worth it.

“I’m so excited, my kids are excited. I can’t wait to move in and put my own touches to the house. We’ve waited a long time,” Santiago said.

The Cape Coral Garden Club will come out to do the landscaping, and Lowe’s brought in Barb Repscher on Saturday to demonstrate to the volunteers how to fix drywall.

Collins said it is what you would expect.

“What’s so great about this is that you have women helping other women. We do it on our own time and it’s just amazing,” Collins said.

Carolina Piamba was among those volunteers willing to help, bringing her husband along.

“I have a strong passion in wanting to help the community and empower other women and through leadership be able to be an example for other people out there,” Piamba said. “We drove from St. Petersburg to be here and it’s our first event. We’re so excited.”