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Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East Women Build

By Kate Maciejowski 

As a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, member of Women Build, and a member of the Board of Directors at Oregon Tradeswomen, Sara is the kind of person who knows what it means to be a part of a community. And that is exactly what brought her to the Habitat family.

Sara was born in the Tri-Cities, WA, and grew up on her family’s farm before moving to Portland in 2005 to participate in the Oregon Tradeswomen program. After completing the pre-apprenticeship training, she jumped right in and has been working on construction projects in Portland ever since. Sara currently works as a Field Engineer for Skanska USA Building, overseeing numerous projects in the Portland area.

In 2016, Sara saw first-hand how difficult it can be to find resources and help during a brief time of homelessness. From that moment on, she was determined to be a part of the solution.

At that time, Sara couldn’t find many resources for women struggling to find affordable housing. “When I landed my job at Skanska in 2018 and I was able to get back up on my feet, that was one of the things I wanted to try and improve,” Sara said. “If I’m going to be upset about something, I want to be a part of fixing it. It’s important. I mean, we’re a community.”

As a member of Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build, Sara is responsible for providing in-depth knowledge of the build sites before Women Build volunteers are dispatched to help with construction. On the day of each build, Sara leads groups in different projects throughout the day including tool use training, exterior landscaping, and various interior finish work.

Her favorite Women Build memory was when they celebrated the anniversary of the 19th Amendment—women’s right to vote—with a Women Build Day where most of the women in her group were in their 50s or older and many of them were entirely new to construction work. “They had the most amazing time and I got phone calls over the next weekend from them saying ‘I just fixed the baseboard in the bedroom!’” she says. “To be a leader and to teach and empower and help build confidence, even if it’s just in the moment and life goes back to normal for them, that’s okay. Being a part of that is absolutely awesome.”

When it comes to volunteering with Habitat, Sara’s favorite moments often come at the Home Dedication ceremonies where new homeowners celebrate moving into the community they’ve spent 300 hours in “sweat equity” helping to build. “You get to know the families during the builds. Just seeing and feeling that emotion and that pride and relief. It’s a very rewarding experience.”

Her current role at Skanska has given Sara a lot of freedom and encouragement to pursue her volunteer work with Habitat. As a Field Engineer, she’s been a part of numerous local projects on top of assisting the start-up of Skanska’s Community Committee in Hillsboro. The Committee works on projects ranging from tiny home builds that benefit victims of domestic violence, to little library builds filled up with donated books, to adopting an entire park in Hillsboro where they are responsible for maintenance and upkeep. Sara is grateful for the support and teams she builds with.

She keeps coming back to Habitat for a simple reason. “Following through on it is my big drive. I want to make sure I follow through on my commitment, not just to myself but the one I’m making to my community,” she says. “If you think about volunteering, try it.”

Interested in volunteering? Join Habitat for Humanity this summer for our Playhouse Experience with Women Build: a special half-day event where corporate teams unite to build and decorate playhouses for a child to call their own! For more information and sponsorship opportunities, email Volunteer and Business Engagement Manager Cassie Punnett at cassie@habitatportlandmetro.org.

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