An image from the most recent build day on April 14. Courtesy of Laurel LaBauve

Women Build is a program that raises funds for Habitat for Humanity, creates affordable housing, and establishes an opportunity for women to gain experience in construction. The program started in South Portland last year and returns this spring. This year the goal for Women Build is to raise $25,000 for Habitat for Humanity and build eight houses over a series of five build days throughout the spring.

The funds raised will go to building affordable housing and home repairs for low-income families in greater Portland.

“I own a small home renovation company and sometimes feel like I’m the only woman in the business,” said Laurel LaBauve, owner of SoPo Cottage, who also serves as vice president of the South Portland Food Cupboard. “Nationally women make up 10 percent of construction workers, but only 3 percent on the job site.  I was trying to figure out how to get more women exposed to the building trades, because it’s such a great career option (or even just to gain skills for DIY).”

Habitat for Humanity used to do a Women Build program, but not for a number of years. LaBauve contacted Tara Hill, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland, to ask about restarting the program. Women Build launched last year and continues this year, even stronger.

“The Women Build program started in 1991 in Charlotte, North Carolina (and) Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland hosted our first Women Build in 2007,” said Hill. “After a hiatus of several years, we reignited the passion of the women in our community last summer with a series of build days in Freeport. There was so much demand that we knew we needed to make this an annual series.”

“There has been huge interest,” LaBauve said. “When I posted on my SoPo Cottage social media about 15 slots open for my sponsored day, I immediately got 60 women replying they wanted to come. The gals that participated ranged from their 20s to their 70s and they were so excited to be there. It’s such a fun, rewarding day. We start with many total novices and by the end of the day they’re slinging a hammer and using power tools like a pro.”


A Build day just occurred, on April 14. The home the team worked on is for Sarah, a single mother with four kids who works in South Portland. She currently has a one-hour commute to work, LaBauve said, taking away much needed time with her young family. The next build day will be April 22, followed by one on May 6. More will follow.

“I’m excited about the Women Build program from two different perspectives,” said LaBauve. “First, because we’re helping to create energy efficient, affordable homes for families that need them. This home is the first of eight in South Portland.  During our build day we kept talking about how wonderful it will be to have lots of children riding their bikes around this cul-de-sac when the homes are ready. Home ownership can be life changing for the new owners.

“Second, because it gives women confidence to try something new in a supportive environment – and may possibly provide a new career choice or confidence to tackle their own home project.”

“This spring, we are hosting five individual build days when anyone can sign up to come out and build,” Hill said. “There is a $250 fundraising minimum which covers the cost of building and supervision as well as some cool incentives. In addition, we are hosting team build days for corporate groups who want to support this program.  For a $2,500 donation, a company can have up to 12 employees come on site for an unforgettable day.”

One woman who volunteered on April 14 was Katie Morency, a local realtor at Cottage & Co Real Estate in South Portland.

“I’m thrilled to also have my mother, Joanne Goguen, join us on the build day!” Morency said. “We’re going to be volunteering in honor of my grandmother, Joan, who was a dedicated volunteer with Habitat for Humanity throughout her lifetime. She taught my family the importance of giving back, and lending a helping hand wherever you can.

“Habitat for Humanity is providing an incredible service for our community. I am so proud to be a part of this event, this cause, and to work alongside such inspiring community members, reinforcing the power of coming together, giving back, and finding solutions to the complexities of our current housing market.”

For more information or to sign up, visit Sponsors are also welcome for each build day.

An image from the most recent build day on April 14. Courtesy of Laurel LaBauve

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