Women Raise the Roof raise more than that for Habitat SEO

WRTR volunteers working at one of the build sites.

For nearly two decades, the Women Raise the Roof (WRTR) coalition has built numerous homes for families in Athens area communities.

WRTR functions as an arm of Habitat for Humanity of Southeastern Ohio. The coalition consists of resident and college student women who volunteer their efforts to the construction of a house every other summer.

For the entire season, the coalition works as a team to construct a finished home for a local family who is found through Habitat SEO. The family also works alongside the coalition volunteers in building their home.

During this time, many of the volunteers develop a strong bond with the family with whom they work. Claudia Hale, who chairs WRTR, said it's an important experience for the women in the coalition to get to know the families they build houses for.

"The more we get to know them, the more special the opportunity is," said Hale.

Kenneth Oehlers, executive director of Habitat SEO, emphasized how meaningful the experience of working with families is for the volunteers. While they work together to build the homes, they are also building a lasting relationship with one another in the process.

Oehlers also noted that building together is not just a long-term benefit for the families, but also for the volunteers.

"Ten years later they can drive by the house and point to it and say, 'I helped build that house'," said Oehlers.

The most recent build was in the summer of 2013 in Athens. This year's project will take place in Nelsonville and according to Habitat SEO's website, it will be the coalition's 15th house.

Volunteers for WRTR range in experience from construction to home repair to completely inexperienced in handy-work. "We've had ladies who have built their own homes to ladies who haven't picked up a hammer," said Hale.

Volunteers in the coalition also range in age, starting as young as teenagers to women in their 80s. Girls can start assisting on the site of the builds at 16, but only those who are 18 and older can use power tools.

Hale said that by volunteering to help build the homes, many of the coalition participants who have little to no experience with structure building and repair learn and gain skills in home maintenance and construction. The women with building experience are willing to help and teach the proper techniques to those without experience.

In between building projects, the group focuses its efforts on fundraising for the next summer build. Habitat SEO assists with the coalition's fundraising efforts as well.

"Our whole agency is about partnership," said Oehlers. "We're here to help them."

While several fundraisers are held throughout the year, the coalition's primary fundraiser is the annual Women Raise the Roof Women's Golf Scramble. The tournament is held every spring and is chaired by Peggy Pruitt, who has been in charge of the tournament for eight years and a part of WRTR for 12 years. This year's tournament will held on May 16 at the Ohio University golf course.

According to Pruitt, a retired assistant athletics director for OU, the tournament usually has 11 to 14 foursomes. The tournament's goal is to have 18 foursomes.

Each year, the tournament also hosts a silent auction with donations. Pruitt said that they welcome new golfers and will pair single players who attend without a partner. A presentation of awards is given at the end of the tournament.

"We always have a great time on the course," said Pruitt.

The WRTR coalition always welcomes new volunteers to assist with fundraising and building projects. They are grateful for any amount of time volunteers can give to their goal of creating affordable and sustainable lifestyles in the community.

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