Schenectady County

Women take up Habitat hammer in Schenectady

The Schenectady County Habitat for Humanity took advantage of an underutilized construction tool Sat

The Schenectady County Habitat for Humanity took advantage of an underutilized construction tool Saturday — women.

In recognition of National Women Build Week, the crew gutting a house at 918 Michigan Ave. was made up almost entirely of women. Schenectady County Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Coordinator Karen McClane said women might be reluctant to volunteer at a construction site, so this initiative creates a welcoming environment.

It’s good for Habitat for Humanity, too, because it opens up a new pool of volunteers, she said.

“Women Build isn’t about excluding men; it is about including women,” McClane said.

Leading up to National Women Build Week, Lowe’s provided training clinics where women could learn the phases of home construction, from drywall and insulation to flooring techniques. Lowe’s also contributed a $5,000 gift card to Schenectady County Habitat for Humanity and has committed more than $1.3 million to the National Women Build Week movement.

Through her years with the organization, McClane said she has picked up building skills, but her real talents were put to use Saturday.

“I am really good at [demolition]. Give me a sledgehammer, and I am ready to go,” she said.

Using the sledgehammer also came naturally to Heather Walker, who will move into the home with her two children when it is finished this fall. After this project, she said it is her intention to make someone else’s dream come true.

“I am so amazed at the outpouring of support from the community,” said Walker, who was decked out in a hard hat and tool belt to help out.

The home will make a difference in the quality of life for her family, which is currently living in an apartment on Upper Union Street. Their current arrangement is problematic for her 10-year-old son, Meki, who has autism. Walker said he has a penchant for running around, which helps stabilize his condition, but opportunities are limited for him to let loose.

“It has been a hardship in the apartments we have rented,” she said.

Meki immediately assessed his space on Saturday.

“My son saw the place this morning and was extremely happy,” Walker said. “He took right to the backyard. He loves the backyard.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, was on hand for a dedication ceremony Saturday and said the sight was a moving experience.

“I thought it was pretty powerful,” he said, crediting Habitat for Humanity for organizing these types of events all year long.

Until the house is completed, Walker said it is an anxious wait. Her son already ran through the house and assigned a bedroom for himself, his mom and his 17-year-old sister, Diamond.

“It’s exactly like Christmas Eve for the next six months,” Walker said of the wait to move in.

Work continues on the residence every Wednesday and Saturday. To learn more about the organization and get involved, visit

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