FREEPORT — Karen Hewes isn’t normally the nail-hammering type.

“My husband tells me I can’t touch his toolbox,” said Hewes, a lieutenant in the Coast Guard who’s stationed in South Portland.

So it may have been a little out of Hewes’ element to be hammering, measuring and sawing at a home construction site on South Street on Friday, but she got into the swing of it enthusiastically.

“I, for the first time in my entire life, framed a house!” she said.

Hewes was part of a special Veterans Day event with Habitat for Humanity, which is building three homes for low-income families on South Street. The group teamed up with veterans and active-duty military to work on framing one house and putting up siding and doing other exterior work on the two other houses.

Getting people interested in the volunteer effort wasn’t at all difficult, said Terry Moore, who chairs the Maine Women’s Veterans Commission and is retired from the Air Force. “I got the word out and instantly heard back from Karen (Hewes), who said, ‘I’m going to have a lot of volunteers,’ ” Moore said.

“I had to tell people, ‘No more,’ ” Hewes added.

In the end, Habitat for Humanity capped the number of volunteers at 60 when it initially had hoped to get 12, said Kate Callahan, the organization’s volunteer manager.

“We were really not sure what the turnout would be like, but it really snowballed,” she said.

Most of the military women were working on the house that needed to be framed, because that was designated a “women build” home and only females could do the construction, said Stephen Bolton, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland. The other houses had volunteer crews of both genders.

The three houses are all less than 1,200 square feet and have three bedrooms, he said. As with all Habitat for Humanity homes, he said, families put in time working on the houses, which gives them a right to buy one for what it cost to build.

Much of the material is donated, the labor is free and the home sites were bought from the Town of Freeport for the amount of back taxes that were owed, Bolton said.

One family that is expected to buy the first house that is done has been working on it, Bolton said, but they weren’t at the site Friday. He said the house should be done early next year.

Bolton said it was great to see the military response, particularly because Habitat for Humanity is looking at expanding its mission in the coming years to help provide housing for veterans. He said that’s going to be discussed with military and administration officials this winter.

Moore said the turnout of active-duty and retired military didn’t surprise her.

A lot of the military missions over the past few decades have been humanitarian, she said, such as helping out after natural disasters.

“There’s a deep understanding and interest in giving to others” among the military, she said. “It isn’t hard to be here.”

For some, though, it may have been easier than for others.

Alma Aranda serves in a Navy mobile construction battalion, so she didn’t need any special instructions on what to do on a construction site.

“It’s not entirely unfamiliar territory,” she said.

Most of her recent Veterans Days, Aranda said, she’s been working. She decided this year would be different, however.

“This year, I said I’m taking it off,” she said of the holiday, “and I’m going to do something great.”

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]