By Andy McKeever
02:33AM / Monday, May 01, 2017
The wood used for construction will feature handwritten notes.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Norma Delsonno's five children had never built a snowman.
The family lived in apartment buildings with little yard space and neighborhood kids would likely knock it over anyway. This winter though, she was approved to become a homeowner through Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity. After a snowstorm hit, she and her husband drove the children up to a vacant lot on Clarendon Street where next winter she'll move into her new home — and have plenty of room for snowmen.
"They're in the community and they are doing great work. They are lovely people. She is always smiling. That is really exciting," Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Carolyn Valli said of the Delsonnos.
The home the Delsonnos will be purchasing has some uniqueness. It will be the first one raised completely by women. For the last six years, Habitat has held Women Build, a program sponsored through Lowes, to empower women by having them do the work.
"It is the first year we are going to be doing it from the cement up. The women will be the first ones on the job site and we'll be raising those walls, putting down the decking. We've been really building up to this. Every year we've gotten more skills and learned more organization to really rock and roll this," Valli said.
"What we hear back from our volunteers that work on Women Build is that they feel stronger and more capable to do the next thing. And that's really what Habitat for Humanity is about, building strength, stability, and self reliance."
This year's Women Build will kick off Wednesday and three days a week women from all over the community will be on site. The women will handle the first 17 days of construction, hoping to have the building closed up by June.
"This is going to be our biggest year," Valli said.
Businesses, churches, schools and the like often use the project as a team builder and Valli said even more teams have joined this year. She is hoping to set a record with the number of volunteers, eclipsing the 157 from last year. The program has grow significantly since its inception locally.
"The first time was one day, doing landscaping at one house, and there was six of us," Valli said.
State Sen. Adam Hinds has been a supporter of Habitat for some time and his office plans to have a team working on the home in June.
"We all know empowerment and strength doesn't come from muscles but it is pretty cool to wield a hammer or a power tool every once in a while isn't it and to see the result of your work?" Hinds said.
Hinds reflected on his days working with the Pittsfield Community Connection, which aimed to prevent at-risk youth from falling into trouble. He said he spent time trying to figure out how to get access to those youth and focusing on women is what worked.
"They wouldn't be afraid about a gun or about bigger guys. But, mom and grandma, look out," Hinds said. "That became a part of our strategy, empowering women and empowering moms in the community. I love that Woman Build is giving a nod to the fact that it is women who build strong communities and strong families."
Delsonno has already been putting in the work with her financial coach and will be part of building her own home. She joined dozens of volunteers on Sunday for workshops on the various tasks they'll be undertaking during the year's build — from the use of impact drivers to framing to painting. And she already knows the community she'll be joining. Valli said neighbors have already helped stake out where the home will be and a woman from across the street took Delsonno around to introduce her to the neighbors.
"It is just a very nice plot of land there and they'll be walking into a great community," Valli said.
The home will have yet another unique feature. Habitat has launched a new fundraiser in which donors can build a stud and write messages to the family on it. Those studs will be used in the construction of the home. As Delsonno told Valli, the home will be built with love inside and out.
Valli added that there is still space available for volunteers on the individual day of June 3.