NAILING IT: Laura Reed, forewoman for the all-women construction crew building a house for Habitat for Humanity in South Kingstown, gestures while talking to crew members Carol O’Donnell, foreground left, and Christine Fitzpatrick, center.
A Habitat for Humanity house going up on a piece of real estate on Old North Road in South Kingstown near the University of Rhode Island may look like just one more realization of a dream for a family looking to put down roots in a place of their own.
But the construction of the two-story, 1,300-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home has a more unusual element – it’s being built by an all-women construction crew.
The project launched Oct. 19 with a Women Constructing Hope weekend build, which continued that weekend and the following one to get a substantial start on construction.
“We had more than 60 volunteers over the first weekend – all women,” said Carol O’Donnell, who is president of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction and owner of CRM Modular Homes in Johnston.
“There aren’t many women contractors,” said O’Donnell. “I just went into it because I wanted an unconventional way to open a business, and I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day.”
She began in the business 20 years ago with real estate courses, started buying vacant lots in Providence that were up for tax auctions in the 1980s and then started building.
O’Donnell’s volunteer work with Habitat has the same appeal as her paid efforts of buying lots and building houses, most recently in the Narragansett area.
“I feel great about it,” said O’Donnell. “I love to see families get into their new homes. It’s a big step. It’s one of the most important things you do in your life.”
Habitat for Humanity hasn’t selected a family yet to move into the home, which is in a cluster of four houses called Old North Village at the edge of the URI campus, said Sheila Martin, development and marketing director for South County Rhode Island Habitat for Humanity.
“We’ll sell this house for $110,000 and, obviously, it’s worth a lot more than that,” said Martin. Buying a Habitat home requires more than money – it requires a certain number of hours of “sweat equity” helping to build that house or others. If the owner moves, the house has to be sold back to Habitat.
The Old North Village home is LEED certified for energy efficiency and meets all standards for accessibility.
“Volunteers ranged in age from late teens to women in their 70s,” said Martin. “We have a lot of volunteers who are students at URI. They have a very active Habitat chapter there, and in addition to volunteering on the construction, they’ve raised more than $178,000 for the four houses we’re building in Old North Village.”