The program empowers women by getting them involved in the construction of a home.
DALTON, Mass. — Courtney McArdle was catering an event about a year ago when she met Carolyn Valli, executive director of Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity.
In conversation, McArdle told Valli a bit about herself. She's a single mother, raising two children, and working three jobs.
Valli extended an offer to meet with Habitat staff.
"You always hear about how great they are and how much they do for the community. But it was the first time I actually opened my eyes to all the good that they do," McArdle said.
Last year, she was on site in Pittsfield getting her hands dirty as she helped build a home for Norma DelSonno. At the same time, McArdle was going through the financial literacy and other training so she could get her own home.
"I had just gotten approved for a loan, which I was able to make into a construction loan. I was able to get this awesome property in Dalton," McArdle said.
On Saturday, Habitat broke ground of McArdle's future Housatonic Street home. The kick-off launched the first day of "women build," a program eyed to empower women by getting them involved in the construction.
"I think it is so important for women to see themselves as construction workers, as people who can handle big, muscular tools. When I was growing up, I could never picture myself doing this kind of work," said Paige Dolinski, a legislative aide in state Rep. Paul Mark's office.
Dolinski was one of a half-dozen or so "women in government," who were on site for the first day. Throughout the build, a number of women's groups will be putting in hours to construct McArdle's new house.
"I feel empowered to be with strong women here and with strong women in the government," said Pittsfield City Councilor Helen Moon.
The home on Housatonic Street is the first foray into Dalton for Habitat. Selectmen John Bartels and John Boyle welcomed Habitat with open arms. The home brings new families to town, adds children to the school system, and even cleans up an eyesore.
"Plus its gotten rid of some real blight in the neighborhood, the neighborhood really appreciates this. We've got some other projects already lined up for you in Dalton," Boyle joked.
McArrdle hugs Norma DelSonno, who is volunteering to build the home after McArdle had helped construct hers.
But for Habitat, it isn't just building a home for someone. The organization has a lengthy process pairing up the future homeowner with a coach who helps get the person's finances in order. The homeowner also has to put hundreds of hours into volunteering.
"Habitat does more than build homes. We build communities, we build families, and we build a much better Berkshires," Valli said.
McArdle got many of her hours in building DelSonno's home. And on Saturday, DelSonno was returning the favor. She was among the women on site and said her efforts are just her way of giving back to those who helped her.
"I believe that Habitat is the very best of us, the very best of community. What we want in our community is strong families because strong families make strong neighborhoods. And strong neighborhoods make strong cities and strong towns," State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier said.
The home is expected to be complete in time for McArdle's two children, Avery and Easton, to attend the first day of Craneville Elementary's school year. And McArdle says she will be looking to put in two-days a week toward building the home.
Also attending Saturday was Diane Sturtevant, Hinsdale treasurer, Andrea Harrington, a Richmond School Committee member and candidate for district attorney, and Matthew Russert, from U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's office.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
We show up at hurricanes, budget meetings, high school games, accidents, fires and community events. We show up at celebrations and tragedies and everything in between. We show up so our readers can learn about pivotal events that affect their communities and their lives.
How important is local news to you? You can support independent, unbiased journalism and help iBerkshires grow for as a little as the cost of a cup of coffee a week.