Habitat Empowers Women and Saves Lives

When Aleta was growing up, women often were assumed incapable of handling anything mechanical.  And when she faced that same attitude after earning her auto mechanic certification while serving on Navy bases from Virginia to Maine for six years, she simply “toughed it out.”

Aleta in front of a building projectToday Aleta, 65, is working alongside dozens of women on the MJ Adams Legacy Women Build project, building a safe, affordable home for herself and her grandson.  The unique way that Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity (PVHH) pulls together volunteers and donated resources is making this possible.

PVHH’s agency lies not only with helping Aleta become a homeowner, but in the way that the entire community is empowered through each Habitat Build Project. In addition to each Habitat partner family, hundreds of volunteers – male and female, young and old, experienced and raw beginner – benefit as Habitat builds homes.  A Habitat build site is an active learning environment.  Every time PVHH puts tools into people’s hands to fight poverty, it builds skills and confidence that carries over into other parts of the lives of those volunteers.

Because of this unique partnership with the Habitat community, Aleta will finally move out of the mold-plagued apartment that has caused aggravated health issues for her and her grandson. “The move to my new home will literally save my life,” she says, referring to the potentially life-threatening condition she suffers with, which is exacerbated by the mold in her current living arrangement.  The opportunity continues to astound this former auto mechanic and wound-care nurse, who now uses a walker to maneuver through the building site in Easthampton.

The house on East Street that will become Aleta’s home – and the house attached to hers, making it a duplex – is on a long list of firsts for Pioneer Valley Habitat:

the whole crew


PVHH’s first WomenBuild, recruiting and teaching even more women volunteers construction skills on PVHH build sites, a confidence booster that many volunteers have found transformative.

PVHH’s first net zero energy goal homes, which introduced Aleta and hundreds in the community to many new, cutting edge aspects of high performance home construction.  The “green building” features in the homes’ design will help lower energy costs for the families who will live in them, as well as create a cleaner environment for the community they are built in.

PVHH’s first super insulation installation, including a one-day blitz with skilled energy experts helping community volunteers get hands-on experience using an energy saving insulation technique that works in all homes.

PVHH’s first barrier-free (on one side) and accessible (on the other) duplex, helping owners to age in place, and current and future homeowners with mobility challenges to live comfortably.

This list of firsts builds on Pioneer Valley Habitat’s 25-year tradition of innovative community engagement and impact in many communities throughout Hampshire and Franklin Counties. PVHH builds hope and community while building homes for people like Aleta, for whom home-ownership would otherwise be out of reach.   The next community building project, at Hawthorne Farm on East Pleasant Street in Amherst, has just broken ground.

To donate to Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, follow the link provided and click on Add to My Donation Basket, or use the code 164588 on your paper pledge form.