When she started building houses for the Raritan Valley chapter of Habitat for Humanity, Kathryn Tanaka barely knew a hammer from a handsaw. “I knew basically nothing about building when I showed up,” says the Bridgewater resident.
Several years (and houses) later, Tanaka, 56 and a retired teacher, still loves every minute of volunteering for Habitat. She has shared her gained knowledge of construction with other women, bringing Women Build days to Raritan Valley. Like Tanaka, the women learn construction skills while helping families in need. “Some women have done a lot of construction work, but most haven’t done any,” Tanaka says.
As the Women Build coordinator, Tanaka organizes the day, taking care of registration, lunches, T-shirts, and everything in between. Hundreds of women have participated since the program started four years ago. “It’s great working with women who are so excited to build for the first time,” she says.
The best part of Tanaka’s work is the feeling she gets when families receive the keys to their new homes. “Doing something good for others makes me feel great,” she says. “It’s made me realize how hard people work in this life to get the American dream.”