These ‘homemakers’ build homes from the ground up

These ‘homemakers’ build homes from the ground up


Special to the Sun Herald

APRIL 26, 2017 2:33 PM


As a real estate broker, Tiffany Burgess sells homes, but a couple of times a year she likes to help build them.

Burgess and about 25 women from Exit Realty in South Mississippi gathered at a site in Gulfport on Tuesday to don hard hats, take up tools and start framing. The women were there for Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build event.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers and professionals will be working on the house in Gulfport for several more months, but for the next couple of weeks the majority of their volunteers will be women.

“The point is to empower women in a primarily male-dominated field,” said Lindsay Freise Avery, the director of resource development at Habitat for Humanity’s Gulfport office.

The Gulfport house is on Curcor Drive, just a few blocks from the beach. When it’s finished, it will be about 1,300 square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The biggest fundraiser for the project will choose the house’s colors, floors and cabinets.

Avery said the finished house will be sold to an area family. Habitat for Humanity sells homes for their appraised value, she said, and uses money raised to begin new projects. The organization also provides recipient families with financial counseling, planning and financing.

“Our end goal is to provide opportunities for strength, stability and self-reliance,” she said.

Roianne Newman-Gutierrez, CFO and owner of Newman Lumber Co. in Gulfport and chair of the local Women Build event, stopped by in the early afternoon to see how progress was coming.

“You know it’s going to someone to better their lives,” she said. “How often do you get the opportunity to do that?”

Newman-Gutierrez said Deborah Bryant, wife of Gov. Phil Bryant, had visited the site a few days earlier and even spent some time operating a miter saw.

Avery said one of the most fulfilling aspects of building Habitat homes was watching recipient families flourish afterward. She remembers one couple who bought a Habitat home in 2008. They have since paid it off, she said, and their kids are doing well.

“To see their kids prosper is awesome.”