We can do it!

Local Habitat chapter sponsors all-women build in Marietta

(Marietta Daily Journal, May 13, 2018)

By Ross Williams, rwilliams@mdjonline.com

“I believe Mother’s Day is not about getting a gift from the child as a mom,” said Abby Immanuel. “Mother’s Day is about me being a mom, and other people being moms and doing their jobs. I want to be able to give my son something he loves. … This year, my present to my son is a Habitat home. That’s my present.”

Immanuel and her 10-year-old son, Raphael, named after the archangel, are looking forward to spending Mother’s Day 2019 in their new Marietta home, currently under construction thanks to over 240 all-woman volunteers.

Fran Sutton, spokeswoman for Habitat for Humanity’s Northwest Metro Atlanta branch, said the national Habitat for Humanity has held a women’s build for the past 11 years. The local branch, which serves Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties, is calling this year’s event their inaugural women’s build — the only previous one was held over 25 years ago.

Speaking as crews of women in pink hard hats hammered away on the house’s interior framing Saturday, Sutton said the response has been overwhelming and inspiring.

More than 240 Habitat for Humanity volunteers with the Northwest Metro Atlanta branch — and all women — are working to construct a new home for Abby Immanuel and her son. The national Habitat for Humanity organization has held a women’s build for the past 11 years. / Special to the MDJ

“We sign up at least 25 to 30 every week to come out and work, and we work five to six crews and divide the ladies up into different crews to build different things,” she said.

Among the women at Saturday’s build was Ruth O’Neal, a nurse who lives in Mableton.

Her home was built by Habitat for Humanity two years ago, and since then, she has volunteered on countless other projects.

“I can feel the love of God every time I come around,” she said. “I would like to give back what I received from my community, and I feel so blessed to be a part of this.”

Working in the back yard was Marietta Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly, who brought a couple of first-time Habitat volunteers, Mary Chatman, president of WellStar Kennestone Hospital, and Michele Perez, who works at Resurgens Orthopaedics as a physiatrist, a type of doctor who specializes in the spine. The three were smiling through the sweat as the afternoon sun kicked into gear.

“I am very impressed with the caliber of teamwork that’s here,” said Chatman as the three worked to cover the home in house wrap. “We’re just having fun and doing work at the same time, which always makes a really good day.”

Perez agreed.

“Everybody just jumped in and learned how to do stuff. I don’t think I expected that,” she said. “I think I expected to be a little bit lost all day and not know what to do, but the leaders were great.”

All three said they will definitely be back to volunteer on future builds.

Future homeowner Immanuel took a break from working inside the home to speak to the MDJ from a bench in front of the home while power tools whirred in the background.

Her eyes filled with pride every time she spoke of her son and his accomplishments, but she said the two of them have not had an easy time the past few years.

First, her husband died unexpectedly. Then came a cancer diagnosis for her. Though she has a bachelor’s degree and speaks five languages, she has struggled to find a job that pays enough to keep up with the rent on her east Cobb home. Then, several days before her interview with Habitat, her home flooded, and all her furniture was destroyed.

But despite these setbacks, Immanuel said she is able to stay strong because of her Christian faith.

“The process from the beginning to the end, it was a miracle,” she said. “A lot of things happened, but there was always another door for me. That was God’s plan for me. … God always shows me His love, and God always shows me he is there with me and my son.”

Future homeowner Abby Immanuel holds a Mother’s Day present from her son in front of their future home, which is being built by an all-female group of Habitat for Humanity volunteers. / Ross Williams

Immanuel said Raphael has already given her a very special Mother’s Day gift, a wall tile with a heart and a globe that reads “Best mom in the world!”

She said it will be displayed with pride on the wall of the new home when the two move in July 21.

“I think my son is going to love the place here,” she said. “I already fell in love with it. It’s a house made with love.”


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