Mothers, daughters build homes together for Habitat for Humanity in Fellsmere

FELLSMERE – The morning was cool, not a cloud in the sky as a bright Florida sun beat down on about 45 volunteers – mostly women – who were building a house in Grace Meadows, a Habitat for Humanity community in Fellsmere.

Although many of the women at the construction site volunteer for Habitat for Humanity year round, the occasion that united these women on the day before Mother’s Day was a national initiative called Women Build.

“My mom and I have to work tomorrow, so we thought we’d hang out today and build a house together,” said Susan Adams, mayor of Fellsmere. Susan also works at Marsh Landing restaurant, owned by her mom, Fran Adams, a former county commissioner.

Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week addresses the global housing crisis facing women and children.

Lowe’s, a national sponsor, was represented locally by about 10 female volunteers working at the Grace Meadows site. Lowe’s also presented a check for $5,000 to the program.

Organizer Sue Croom, a year-round volunteer for the local Women Build program, was accompanied by daughter, Christine Baldwin, a St. Ed’s graduate now living in Fort Lauderdale, and Croom’s grandson, Bryan Baldwin, 13.

Though part of the point of the day was for moms and their daughters to band together to build, the mother-daughter teams this year were split apart.

“You know how you don’t like to take direction from your own mother,” said Baldwin, in town visiting Croom for Mother’s Day.

Croom had “never hammered a nail,” she said, until 2005 when she helped establish the local Women Build chapter. Now, the group meets every Tuesday and Thursday to contribute a half-day’s work to building a home.

“We like to think of it as a hand up, not a hand out,” said Croom about the mission of Habitat for Humanity.

She helped build almost all the houses in the half complete 65-home community.

An estimated eight mother and daughter teams paired up for the build, many, like Croom’s team, included a third generation.

“This wasn’t on my bucket list, but it’s fun,” said 82-year-old Maxine Burke, who was helping to build a house for the first time in her life with daughter, Linda Roberts, and granddaughter, Olivia Roberts, 15.

The houses, all essentially the same design, are modest, sturdy structures with some nice features, i.e. porches, pretty colors and small, but ample yards that don’t require much upkeep.

A sense of community permeated the worksite, which had much to celebrate. Two house dedications were scheduled for the same day.

“Every Habitat home has a wall raising ceremony and, when completed, a dedication,” said Jessica Schmitt, volunteer coordinator for the organization.

Of the two homes being dedicated, one was sponsored and volunteer-built by Johns Island; the other by the Town of Orchid.

Gracewood Meadows lies a short distance from downtown Fellsmere, where Fran Adams’ restaurant is located. It is her opinion that Grace Meadows “really improved the ‘hood,” she said.

“The program’s clients are hard working people,” Adams said. “They are giving members of a community. Their kids are in school here; they make their living here; they do their spending here. They celebrate here; they play here.”

She said Habitat for Humanity has given these people the American Dream of owning a home.

The women were adept at construction, having been trained earlier that morning. Now, there they were, a wheelbarrow of pink hard hats available as needed, up on the roof, hammering siding, using circular saws and what not.

Still, pointed out Cat Faust, who was volunteering with mother, Samantha Baita, and daughter, Sophia Faust, they were women through-and-through.

There was a basket filled with tissues, fragrances, soaps and other necessities a girl may need when using a porta-potty system during the build.

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