Building A House For Monica
Monica Grandpre with her children Randy and Malia
Next Thursday, May 25, I’ll be wearing a red “SHEetrockers” V-neck tee, a bedazzled hard-hat and will hold a hammer or a paint brush in my hand. Along with Alicia, Amy, Ann, Donna, Eleanor, Ellie, Julie, Kate, Lainie, Rebekah, Sarah, Shannon E., Shannon S., Stephanie, Therese and Vicki, I’m going to help build a house for Monica Grandpre and her family.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Grandpre is a single mother who works in the service industry at the Royal House in the French Quarter. She wants to be a homeowner, and through the New Orleans Area Habitat For Humanity (NOAHH) Women Build program Grandpre will soon be given the keys to her future.
This month, a women-only group is uniting to plan, fund and build Grandpre’s three-bedroom house at 6540 Dorian St. in New Orleans East, which will be completed by Saturday, June 3.
“Having a safe place to raise my children Randy and Malia and owning a home have been life-long dreams,” Grandpre said. “New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity and the 450 hard-working ladies of Women Build are allowing me to achieve these goals and build a better life for my family.”
I’m on Ellie Rand’s team, the “SHEetrockers.” Rand, the vice president of communications at NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, led the effort to raise $5,000. The other 20 teams had to raise a minimum of $5,000 each as well to contribute to this project, which needed at least $90,000 to kick-start. The month-long effort, which began on Thursday, May 11, also includes another 135 female volunteers who are working to build the new home Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Our team’s sponsors include NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, LaPorte CPAs & Business Advisors and Belle Chasse Marine Transportation.
Some of the other companies with teams participating in this Women Build include GE Digital, Motherless Daughters and Marriott International, Inc.
“Marriott hotels are delighted to be a part of New Orleans Habitat's first-ever Women Build,” Jesseca Malecki, general manager of W New Orleans-French Quarter, said of her company’s team. “While we’ve enjoyed a close relationship with the organization for a number of years, volunteering and sponsoring builds and even cheering on some of our own staff as they’ve become Habitat homeowners, this build is especially exciting. In an industry like ours, filled with strong women, it just makes sense to step up and be a part of an event where women are coming together to create change.”
One reason home ownership is possible for families like Grandpre’s is because, as the lender, NOAHH charges no interest. This means NOAHH homeowners’ monthly mortgages for new home are usually less than they paid previously in rent.
Like all Habitat for Humanity partner families, Grandpre worked more than 350 volunteer hours helping others become homeowners by volunteering in the Habitat ReStore, 2900 Elysian Fields Ave., or on building sites. She also took classes through NOAHH in financial literacy and home repair to prepare for homeownership.
According to NOAHH:
• Nearly half of all children in New Orleans are living in single mother homes
• 43.8 percent of all children in New Orleans live in poverty (double the national average)
• 58 percent of single mother families in New Orleans live below the poverty line
• 35 percent of renters in New Orleans pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing
• 70 percent of NOAHH’s homeowners are single women
The Women Build team members come from different backgrounds, neighborhoods and professions, but we all share the same belief – homeownership changes lives. This house we’re building will have a yard, and it’s the first Randy, 11, and Malia, 9, will get to play in and call their own.
Jane Scott Hodges, founder of Leontine Linens and leader of the “Designing Women” team, said she was inspired to take part in Women Build because of “the friendships of the women I have known throughout my life, the support system that we give one another and the unique opportunity to create a home for another woman and her family. I can think of no better tribute to them than to join hands and create a home for another woman.”
“Going through this program has been very exciting to me,” Grandpre said. “Nothing can make you more appreciative of becoming a homeowner than actually working on your own home from beginning to end.”
NOAHH, an independent affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that has built 575 new homes for low-income families in need since its inception in 1983. NOAHH builds new houses in partnership with sponsors, volunteers, communities and homeowner families to eliminate poverty housing, reps said. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, NOAHH has hosted more than 150,000 volunteers who built 474 new homes, gutted more than 2,400 flooded homes, attacked blighted properties, partnered to cultivate 36 urban gardens and made urgently needed repairs for more than 120 elderly or disabled property owners in need, reps said.