Women stars of science, industry and entertainment build affordable housing in San Fernando V

North Los Angeles Habitat for Humanity affiliate promotes mentorship, empowerment, sustainable living
By: Robert McLellan
May 17, 2010 - PRLog -- Pacoima, CA, May 17, 2010 –  Women from across North Los Angeles County will join female leaders of science, engineering, technology and entertainment to help build six new homes for working families during Habitat for Humanity’s first ever Women Empowerment (WE) Build May 22-24 in Pacoima.

Sunday, May 23rd will boast the highest profile attendance at the WE Build, sponsored by the Gas Company and in partnership with the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC).  Leaders at Boeing and other leading aerospace companies will join tech industry innovators to encourage young women from all backgrounds to explore less traditional careers. These leaders will join role models from film and television, to don pink hard hats and tool belts along-side Habitat kids and its over 25 Youth United high school and college campus volunteers to demonstrate that women can change the world. The added message is that affordable housing is a critical change needed for our communities. The industry leaders will be joined by writers, producers and stars such as Habitat Ambassador Arianne Zucker and other leading ladies from Days of Our Lives and other hit shows.  

EIC is encouraging film and television producers to elevate the importance of science, engineering and technology careers as viable options for youth and seeks to strengthen how engineers and scientists are portrayed in entertainment media space. Smallville costar Cassidy Freeman will start the day with a motivational talk for women of all generations.  Celebrity guests include soap stars Molly Burnett, Nadia Bjorlin, and Crystal Chappell from Days of Our Lives, Katherine Kelly Lang, Hunter Tylo, Sarah Joy Brown, Kimberly Matula, Alley Mills and Jacqueline McInnes Wood from The Bold & the Beautiful and Kate Linder from The Young & the Restless along with T'keyah Crystal Keymáh (Cosby/That’s So Raven), Ananda Lewis (MTV/BET), Vanessa Williams (Lincoln Heights/Soul Food), film star Shirly Brener, and young stars Britt Hysen (Mad Men), Amy Guemenick (Supernatural/Natalee Holloway), Haley McFarland (Lie to Me), Rachel Bell (Suite Life on Deck), Madisen Beaty (The Pregnancy Pact), Natalie Dreyfuss (Rita Rocks) and Taylor Spreitler from the new series Melissa & Joey.  

Lunch speakers will include Arianne Zucker who will focus on the need for women to participate in the affordable housing home ownership movement, Patti Wagner who will take about the need for more women in fields that explore new and green technologies in the Gas Company’s tradition, and special guests James Kelly and Julie Zingerman.  

“Many of our families have women heads of household,” says Habitat for Humanity San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valleys CEO Donna Deutchman. “We wanted to do more than just have a day where women build. We wanted to help our mothers and their daughters realize they too can be active agents of change to make a better community for themselves and their neighbors. The women coming to this event are at the tops of their professions and want to encourage others by their example, and by sharing their success.”

Other days focus on Building Community (Saturday, May 22) and Building Neighborhoods (Monday, May 24).  Saturday’s highlight will be the planting of an urban community garden.  Monday, in partnership with the Los Angeles/Ventura County Building Industry Association Women’s Council, will celebrate women in this important industry.  Key note speakers on Monday will include Lynn Jacob of the California Housing Finance Agency.  Each day’s activities include building homes, planting the garden to encourage self-sustainability, tours of a Habitat home and presentations by keynote speakers.

With major support from CitiBank, Home Depot, National Construction Rentals, and Mercedes Benz of Encino, the event will introduce the community to a unique model for developing affordable housing that was created by the San Fernando Habitat affiliate. The Enriched Neighborhood model brings social and educational services into the neighborhoods along with Habitat teaching programs including home ownership and repair, and money management to equip the entire family for long-term success. Initial outcome studies from the families who moved into 20 homes in Phase 1 show remarkable results. While only 43% Pacoima area high school students graduate, in Habitat’s planned community the children have a 100% high school graduation rate with 92% attending or having graduated from college or a trade school, with over 50% graduating from a 4-year university. Many adults have also gone on to college and, within 3 1/2 years of moving in, Pacoima Phase 1 families have reported an average 14% increase in income.

The event is open to women aged 16 and over from across the region. Registration is $40 ($20 for students) and participants are asking their friends and family to sponsor them with additional donations. For information, visit www.HumanityCA.org.

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Habitat for Humanity, SF/SCV serves North Los Angeles County with one of Habitat for Humanity’s most innovative models—Habitat Enriched Neighborhoods. By building homes with the help of volunteers (keeping the price low) and by holding the interest free loan – families are able to buy a home for less than what they would pay in rent. In addition families commit 500 hours of sweat equity to the building of their neighborhood. The families selected are hard-working people (nurse aides, day-care workers, transportation workers) who make about 50-60% the wages of middle-income workers. Habitat for Humanity, San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valley is among only 5% of affiliates around the globe that have reached the milestone of 100 homes built. The Habitat Pacoima project comprises 61 homes, 37 of which are already occupied with 24 homes to be completed over the coming year. For information, visit www.HumanityCA.org.
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