Artist's work to help Habitat houses

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WOODINVILLE - Women from the Valley and beyond gathered for breakfast at the Columbia Winery June 6 to raise money for a special Habitat for Humanity of East King County project.

Two of the 20 houses in Habitat's August "blitz build" on Snoqualmie Ridge will be constructed entirely by women, for women, with money donated, for the most part, by women. The project is called the "Women's Build," and others have taken place at Habitat sites across the country. The two Women's Build houses each have two bedrooms that were designed for single mothers and their children.

"I think you'll find that two-thirds of the women that occupy Habitat homes are single moms," said Jean Ann French, resource development manager for Habitat. "Becoming a single mom is almost a guarantee of poverty. Women still have not reached equality in pay, and women are the primary caregivers. We are a two-income society that automatically pushes women into the poverty level when they are reduced to one income.

"But women are strong, women are durable. We can and will take care of ourselves, so it becomes a demonstration of strength and tenacity," she added.

Of the $60,000 cost to build one Habitat house, more than half was raised at the breakfast. The rest was provided by a corporate sponsor, Buck and Gordon law firm.

North Bend Mayor Joan Simpson was the keynote speaker for the breakfast. She spoke about a woman's strength and endurance, of how women can accomplish great things, no matter the adversities.

Among the 175 attendants were dozens of Valley women, as well as King County Council members David Irons and Louise Miller.

Additional money will be raised for the houses through donations in a Women's Build greeting-card program. Participants can donate money in the name of a woman friend or relative, who will receive a handcrafted card. The cards are available for a minimum donation of $20 each.

Katharine Warmerdam, a prospective homeowner at Snoqualmie Ridge, created the cards.

Warmerdam, a stay-at-home mom with four children, has been making her stamp-print art for years as a hobby, not knowing it would eventually be put to use for Habitat's efforts.

She and her husband, Dim, have been busy providing the required 500 "sweat equity" hours for their house's down payment, which creates a challenge to find time to make her cards. So far, she's made 500 donation cards with the help of a few other soon-to-be Habitat homeowners.

The cards are in several colors and textures, and have thick paper stock for backing with a message written inside by Warmerdam.

"I think that the Women's Builds is a tremendous opportunity for women to be involved in creating a home for another woman," Warmerdam said. "We all have gifts and talents and we can give back to the collective society of women by donating time and talent to this cause."

This method of raising money for a Habitat house is different than the others. Usually, a corporate sponsor pays for the entire house. But with the Women's Build, money is raised through private donations, thus events like the breakfast and ideas like the greeting cards are necessary to generate funds.

"The cards are unique to the Snoqualmie project," French said. "Other Women's Builds around the nation have probably done something to honor women, but these cards - nobody can make cards like this. They're absolutely unique. It's an opportunity to recognize a special woman in your life."

The goal is to gather enough donations from the cards to fund the second house.

French said that with a donation of $500, she will reserve a volunteer spot on the Women's Build committee during Habitat's August blitz build, when thousands of volunteers will construct 20 houses in 12 days. To otherwise participate in the blitz build, a three-day commitment is needed, along with $60.

But for those who don't have $500 and still want to make a difference, the cards are available by clipping out the order form on this page or by calling (425) 869-6007. Visa, MasterCard and checks are accepted.

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