This job calls for women's friends

July 22, 2008|By SUAN REIMER

I arrived carrying my reporter's notebook, but I immediately felt like I was attending the reunion of every kid carpool of which I'd ever been a member.

Arundel Habitat for Humanity was announcing plans to construct a home in Annapolis that would be financed and built by women, and I was there to write about it when I realized I knew just about every woman in the room.

I recognized my fellow swim team moms and dance camp moms and art class moms and Montessori moms and, of course, soccer moms.

Moms from every activity my kids had ever been signed up for. Moms with whom I had worked on committees and at concession stands, sewing costumes or making chili or keeping score. Moms with whom I had paced the sidelines of fields, gyms and pools all over Anne Arundel County for the past 20 years.

Linda Krone is one of three women spearheading this Women Build project for Habitat, one of about 700 in the nation. She has been a friend since the days when I drove her son to preschool while she recovered from the birth of her daughter. Seems like a million years ago.

She told me the idea for the project began while she was on a road trip with her friends Pat Prouty and Allison Hyland, who runs Universal Gymnastics in Annapolis.

Allison has taught my kids and every other kid in Annapolis during the past 30 years, although you couldn't tell it to look at her.

Anyway, the three women came up with a list of 40 more women in, like, 10 minutes, Linda said.

"We just went from there," said Linda. "Then everybody called and said, 'I love this idea. Can I bring a friend?' "

Linda and Pat recruited Debbie Gosselin, who owns Watermark Cruises. It was on one of her boats that some 70 or 80 women gathered for their first organizational meeting.

They expect to start building a home for a needy and deserving family in the spring, on property on Clay Street and donated by the Annapolis Housing Authority. It will be one of 14 new houses on the land, but the only one built exclusively by women.

It will cost about $100,000, and it will take four months to six months to finish. It will then be sold to a family - most often a family headed by a single woman - who will be given an interest-free, 30-year mortgage. Payments will be $300 or so a month.

(In 20 years - and 100 homes in the county - only two families have ever defaulted.)

Next to the fruit plate and the little sandwiches donated by Saucy Salamander caterers in Annapolis, (I know them, too), were sign-up sheets for everything from raising money to swinging hammers to making food for the workers.

(Lowe's will hold free clinics to teach the women the skills they need, and professionals will oversee their work.)

"I used to work with Debbie, and I heard about this, and I called her," said Mary Jo Robey of Severna Park, who was director of marketing for the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau.

"I just retired, and it is time to give back. You know? And I want to learn how to use a hammer without hurting myself or others. Besides, I know a lot of people."

Jane Morrell, who started Food Link in Anne Arundel County back in the early 1990s and still works in the nonprofit world, said the project requires the kind of connecting that women have always used to accomplish things.

"You've seen this same group networked on the bench at swim meets. It is that kind of thing that will get it done."

"It is a needed project, especially in Annapolis," said Gosselin. "And these women won't let it fail."

I recognized on that boat that night the same determination, the same spirit and energy that had been present in every activity I have ever undertaken with these mothers, and mothers like them, over the years.

What is it they say?

"When you want something done, give it to a working mother with three kids in six different sports."

Well, it's what they should say.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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Read recent columns by Susan Reimer at baltimoresun.com/reimer

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