Habitat for Humanity program brings ladies collectively to renovate house for mom and son


YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, MI — These women are creating noise — literally.

The sounds of power drills, saws and sledgehammers recently echoed down Ypsilanti Township’s Greenlawn Street as dozens of female volunteers helped fix up a home for a mother and her son.

It’s all part of Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program, which has been going on for 10 years now. The program kicks off every year on March 8, International Women’s Day, and helps renovate homes to provide affordable housing for a future female homebuyer.

The Huron Valley branch is raising $65,000 to renovate a roughly 1,200 square-foot home for Eden Simby, 38, and her young son, who are outgrowing their current Ann Arbor-area apartment.

Volunteers replaced anything from windows, siding, flooring, trimming and anything that would not typically require a licensed contractors, according to Leah Borst, development associate for Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley.

“We buy the home and then we renovate it, and then we sell it to them at an affordable mortgage. We base our standards off of the (Housing and Urban Development) standards, which are between 30 and 80% of the area median income,” Borst said. “We’re not offering them something that’s too much too expensive for their budget.”

The organization typically targets renovating 12-15 homes each year. For Simby’s home, volunteers with Women’s Build will work in 15 teams on Fridays and Saturdays until June to renovate and raise money.

Simby, who was born and raised in Ann Arbor and works at Domino’s Headquarters, said this will be her first house. Her friend previously purchased a home through the program, and she applied in the summer of 2020 after attending informational meetings. She wanted to move into a bigger place, but rentals in the Ann Arbor area kept increasing.

“I thought about Habitat and I said ‘Oh, there’s a program that provides affordable housing to families who are looking for that. I applied, I heard back sometime in July and started the process in September,” Simby said.

Simby is very happy with the house.

“I think at the beginning of the year … we went to Greenlawn (Street) and I thought, ‘This house is going to be really great for whoever gets to choose it,’ not thinking I was next in line to get it. I’ve been able to work on it quite a few times since the beginning of the year,” Simby said. “The yard is a very good size. It’s an older home but it’s a very unique home. Out of all the houses I’ve worked on, this one is very unique. It’s got a brick structure. I love it. I think it’s a great house.”

Simby and others who get homes through the program are required to perform 250 sweat equity hours, meaning they have to help work on homes, take financial classes, credit counseling and home maintenance classes, Borst said.

Michele Shannon, who didn’t have previous construction experience, is now working on her fourth Women’s Build home as a volunteer. Shannon learned various techniques from trimming and applying baseboards, insulation, removing and applying siding, and replacing windows over the years.

“The camaraderie is really nice,” she said. “The committee work is very gratifying in knowing that each of these homes goes to a single mom who probably wouldn’t ever be able to afford a home otherwise, is really gratifying,” Shannon said. “It’s very worthwhile, even though it’s hard work and I’m usually exhausted the next day.”

Millicent Murphy, a designer for Ann Arbor-based Forward Design Build and Remodel, has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for three years, ever since she and her coworkers participated in a Women’s Build volunteer day.

“It just feels really rewarding to be able to be a part of this for Eden, the homeowner. Even if I don’t get to do much it feels just really rewarding to be able to make this dream come true for her,” Murphy said.

Simby anticipates she and her son will move into their new home by June.

“I’m very happy that it exists and that they provide a way to help people get into housing. The cost of living is really on the rise,” Simby said. “Everyone that I’ve worked with has been awesome.”

Habitat is inviting the public to join for build days from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 3 or 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, May 21. Anyone can also help with home improvement exterior projects for women in the community from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, May 7. No construction experience is necessary. Learn more here.

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