Meet the incredible individuals who make up the 2023 Women+ Build Construction Leadership Team. With a shared passion for creating safe, sustainable, and affordable housing, these remarkable women+ lead the way to empower families and inspire change within our community. Dive into their stories and discover the driving force that fuels their dedication and commitment to making a difference.
Marci Becker (Committee Member & Crew Leader) was invited to Women+ Build for the first time in 2007. Since that moment, Marci has participated in every subsequent event, making this year a remarkable 17th year, if her calculations are correct.
Over the years, Marci has been an integral member of the Construction Leadership Team, both as a dedicated staff member and a passionate volunteer. This year, she assumes the roles of both Crew Leader and House Leader.
Marci’s involvement in Women+ Build has been deeply driven by the initiative’s emphasis on empowerment. In a field where some might believe that a construction site is not their place, Marci finds purpose in being part of a movement that shatters such misconceptions.
Cathy Brown’s (Committee Member & Crew Leader) journey with Women+ Build began in 2017 when a persuasive friend encouraged her to join the team. Instantly captivated, Cathy’s retirement around that time allowed her to devote substantial time to volunteering with Habitat throughout the year, both during the week and on Saturdays.
Cathy has a not-so-secret aspiration—to be the first woman to achieve the remarkable feat of joining the 100 Houses Club, a special recognition program within Habitat that celebrations individuals who have volunteered to help build 100 homes for families in need. This year’s Women+ Build will put Cathy half-way there.
Cathy’s favorite part of Women+ Build lies in the collective effort of both building and raising funds for the project. Each nail driven and every dollar donated represents a commitment to bettering lives.
Kari Bennett (Habitat Director of Land Development & Production) joined the Habitat family in September 2022, diving right into the midst of Women+ Build. Embarking on her role during one of Habitat’s most significant events of the year provided her with a vibrant introduction to the organization. Witnessing the collective efforts of the entire Habitat family as they rallied to fully fund and construct two houses within a span of three weeks left an indelible mark on her.
From her experience at the previous year’s Women+ Build, Kari gained valuable insights that have stayed with her. The morning circle at Habitat, always a special moment, took on an even more profound meaning during Women+ Build. The genuine authenticity that fills these gatherings served as a source of inspiration and motivation through the challenging tasks and scorching days.
Kari’s informal role expanded to include skills like driving a manual transmission ton truck, humorously dubbed the “hot rod,” and mastering the proper use of tie-down straps. A pivotal moment arose during the event when the scheduled delivery of drywall for one of the homes fell through at the eleventh hour. In response, Kari and the team swiftly organized the sourcing, hauling, and loading of several tons of drywall to ensure the project remained on track.
The inclusivity symbolized by the “+” in Women+ Build deeply resonated with Kari. From the Women+ Builders to the partner families, subcontractors, neighbors, and even those delivering supplies and sustenance, everyone became an integral part of the event’s infectious enthusiasm.
As this year’s Women+ Build approaches, Kari eagerly anticipates immersing herself once again in the September sunrises to sunsets. With a sense of excitement, she looks forward to collaborating with remarkable women who are making significant contributions to the community through their dedicated efforts.
Natile Foy (House Leader) is currently a Site Manager at Loren Wood Builders. Since 2013, she has been part of seven Women+ Builds, six of them with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati and the seventh right here in Bloomington last year. Her affiliation with Loren Wood Builders has enabled her to step into crew leading roles during Women+ Build, a role she relished both this year and the last.
Natalie holds a special fondness for this event, as it remains her favorite time of the year to construct. Witnessing women+ arrive with confidence and fearlessness in a predominantly male-dominated sector is a sight that fills her with incredible happiness.
Fun fact: Nataile once met one of the Property Brothers on a Habitat project in Cincinnati, though she admits she can’t remember which one.
Cory Hawkins (Committee Member & Crew Leader) embarked on the Women+ Build in the spring of 2020, aiming to raise funds for the cause. However, priorities shifted when Cory’s daughter was born in September 2020. Cory’s first hands-on build experience occurred in 2021 and her involvement continued to evolve from there.
Cory’s commitment to Women+ Build is rooted in a profound belief of aligning principles with actionable steps. Drawing from her experience working with Bloomington’s youth, Cory observed firsthand the substantial impact inadequate housing has on various facets of their lives. Today, Cory is firmly committed to personifying the transformative strength of uplifting others, passing down these values to her nearly 3-year-old daughter.
For Cory, Habitat symbolizes a bridge to her community’s core. Beyond the construction site’s completion, even after the discovery of lingering nails in pockets or traces of mud on shoes, Cory’s sense of fulfillment remains. Whether it’s the seemingly minor tasks of painting or cleaning, or the fervent cheers offered to fellow Women+ builders, Cory regards each action as a contribution towards the whole. In her eyes, every woman+ builder plays a pivotal role in contributing to the tapestry of unity and purpose that Women+ Build embodies.
Colleen Mentz (House Leader), hailing from Colorado, has been a dedicated contributor to Habitat for Humanity for several years, primarily engaging in various construction roles since 2001 when she became a member of the AmeriCorps program in Lynchburg, VA. Presently, she holds the esteemed position of Director of New Construction Programs at the Metro Denver affiliate. Colleen’s involvement with the Monroe County Women+ Build initiative dates back to a time when they ventured into constructing two units during the event—a moment she recalls from a distant era in a faraway county.
When asked about her motivation for participating in Women+ Build, Colleen passionately shared her love for both building and teaching. Her day-to-day responsibilities often differ from these pursuits, making her cherish every opportunity to engage in the dynamic and empowering Women+ Build event.
On a personal note, Colleen brings a touch of familial joy as her son just started on his kindergarten.
Aldona Reid (Committee Member & Crew Leader), is a dynamic volunteer of Habitat, playing both overarching and intimate positions within the organization since 2009. In addition to her volunteer construction leadership, she plays a crucial role as a volunteer teacher of Habitat’s 6-month Financial Readiness class, equipping future homeowners with the essential skills for financial stability.
Upon retirement, Aldona’s priority was to contribute to initiatives like Women+ Build. With this build, Aldona will be proudly participating in her sixth consecutive year. The camaraderie of knowledgeable, tenacious, passionate women uniting for a shared objective resonates deeply with her. The synergy, camaraderie, laughter, shared knowledge, and enduring friendships forged amid muddy conditions are truly priceless to Aldona.
For Aldona, Women+ Build also holds personal significance. As a former educator, she keenly understands the pivotal role stable and affordable housing plays in the lives of families.
Mariluz Perez (House Leader and Crew Leader), originally from Colombia, has a remarkable journey with Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County. Her first connection to dates to 2013, but her path took her overseas with her husband in pursuit of career opportunities. During her earlier stint in Bloomington, Mariluz delved into volunteering with Habitat, discovering immense satisfaction in the process.
Having returned to Bloomington earlier this year, she swiftly rekindled her ties, embracing a role as a crew leader and dedicating two days each week to support Habitat’s endavors alongside her husband. What resonates most profoundly with Mariluz is the profound sense of accomplishment that arises from contributing to the creation of homes for individuals in need.
Mariluz hopes to one day return to Colombia and use her wealth of experience and insights gained through her volunteering journey to promote similar programs can bring about positive change and benefit her community back home.
Sarah Woolford (Habitat Construction Site Supervisor) brings a rich history of involvement to the initiative. Her journey with Women+ Build began at the age of 15, when she found herself delivering lunch to the jobsite where her mother, aunt, and grandmother were diligently working. This early exposure ignited a lasting connection to Habitat, Women+ Build, and its transformative impact.
Proudly representing the third generation of Monroe County Women+ Builders, Sarah is passionate about the opportunity to share her knowledge of construction —a realm traditionally dominated by men—with women who may not have had the opportunity to explore this field. She’s grateful for the chance to uplift both families and individuals, creating a sense of community and empowerment.
Toren Rash (Habitat Senior Site Supervisor) has been part of Habitat for Humanity since 2013. What began as a mission trip to Haiti ignited a revelation to utilize his skills and passion to make a difference in the lives of those in need. Formerly a self-employed general contractor, Toren saw this as an opportunity to channel his expertise for a greater cause. Toren’s path to Habitat continued when his daughter spotted a job opening with the organization and the rest is history.
Over the span of nearly a decade at Habitat, Toren has collaborated with a diverse range of individuals, from partner families and dedicated volunteers to crew leaders and the passionate staff. One of the aspects that resonates deeply with Toren is Habitat’s approach to empowering partner families. He admires the organization’s method of allowing these families to actively participate in the construction of their own homes. This process, coupled with educational classes that prepare them not only for homeownership but also for life’s unavoidable challenges, creates core values of self-sufficiency and community upliftment.
For Toren, being a part of Habitat’s mission is not just a job—it’s a calling that continues to inspire him.