Photo essay by Jack Helms.
Earlier this month, Tracey Garrison opened the front door of her new home to a chorus of cheers. The Habitat for Humanity Women Build Dallas team, dedicated the home and celebrated the milestone of home ownership. Tracey, a single mother of two boys and a nurse at Parkland Hospital, completed more than 300 hours of financial education, met Habitat’s financial and savings requirements, and even helped on the women-led job site to build the structure.
Since 1991, Habitat Women Build volunteers from all over the world and from all walks of life have come together to build stronger, safe communities. The 2021 home is the second Women Build project in Dallas, an area where 69% of local Habitat clients are women leading a household. Women Build is proving that the journey to financial independence and home ownership is truly a community effort.
Sandy Wesch, a long-time Habitat volunteer, served as Build Leader for the 2021 team. “This is always a very emotional day for me,” Sandy said at the dedication. “And part of that is is because I’ve learned a lot about you. I’ve always said I build every house as if it’s mine. And then to see that, getting ready to move into it. It’s just really incredible and also it brings up emotions for me as I’m a woman homeowner myself, and remembering when I signed that deed. I want to thank everybody who came out and built on this house. We built a structure. We built it out of love. There was a lot of laughter, with a lot of joy. It’s a structure that when you move in next week, it becomes your home. And that is what’s so special about this. And so this is one of the things I love most about Habitat. And I really do again appreciate the opportunity to leave the house and give you a home.”
“Buying a home was my dream and a goal of mine,” Tracey said. “Seeing it from start to finish; that was important to me.”
“This is such an incredible moment for Tracey and her family, and so happy to have been part of it from the moment that we just had to still have here,” said Martina McIsaac, Vice Chair of Women Build Dallas and the Region Head & CEO of Hilti North America. “We still have a lot to do. This is a great milestone, but we have a big fundraising goal next year as well and so I’m very proud to be able to be the chair of Women Build. In just in this neighborhood alone, Habitat built 33 homes and repaired 26 others, and has built the TR Hoover Community Center as well.”
Martina presented Tracey with a bag of Hilti tools, representing the love and labor that went into Tracey’s house. “Tracey, we are so happy for you today and we are thrilled to be here for this moment,” Martin said. “I know you’re going to celebrate so many milestones with your beautiful boys in this house, so thank you for inviting us into your life, and congratulations on this tremendous achievement.”
Kellyann Dougherty, the Chair of Women Build Dallas and Chief People & Communications Officer for Mr. Cooper Group, handed Tracey the key to her new home. “Homeownership is so much more than having keys to our home,” Kellyann said. “It’s about family stability, financial freedom and generational wealth, and that’s what we built here today, and I think that Women Build not only change the lives of people like Tracey and her family and their kids, but also the women that they help in so many different ways. What we as a community really need to focus on is how we can start to change the narrative about generational wealth, it’s how we can start to change the narrative about equity in our society and so for me today is about so much more than handing over the keys, it’s about changing lives and feeding the communities, and I’m so grateful for the opportunities to be a part of that.”
“Habitat has a long term relationship with helping women get to a place where they have a greater financial stability,” said Carmen Holmes, VP of Development for Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity. “We felt like that was an important conversation to have in the city of Dallas…and we felt like it was an important conversation to have in the public eye, because we need people to know that there are women that face unique challenges on their journey to homeownership. They have a single income, they’re often taking care of [children and] working full time…but they’re doing it by themselves. And it’s also challenging to save for a down payment if you’re earning one income and taking care of all of the bills by yourself. So we felt like Women Build was an important conversation to have to educate women to get to a greater financial foundation to be in a more stable financial place to be able to teach their children and their children’s children and their children’s children’s children, how to be homeowners to see that power that was the force.”
If you are interested in learning more about Women Build, or joining a Habitat Women Build team for 2022, visit dallasareahabitat.org/women-build-dallas-22.