Family Stories

Habitat’s “Women Build” campaign celebrates inspiring women

Habitat Greater San Francisco has been celebrating the role of the strong women in all of our lives. Whether it’s a mother, friend, or mentor, we’ve all felt the leadership of the women around us. The women we serve use their homes as a foundation to give back to others. From raising foster children, to housing the homeless and tutoring young ones through school, Habitat homeowners show strength and generosity in many ways.

With Mother’s Day still on our minds, please join our Women Build Campaign throughout the month of May. You can help Habitat Greater San Francisco reach the goal to raise $50,000 to build and repair more homes for local women who are the matriarchs of their communities.

Please read on to learn more about the incredible women in our Habitat community.


Alejandra, Habitat homeowner in Novato since 2017

True strength means hard work and perseverance – that’s a lesson Alejandra learned from her mom. Growing up in poverty, her mother started work at 13 while earning her high school diploma. She had two jobs during Alejandra’s childhood but was still able to be there for all of the important moments – both small and big.

Now that Alejandra has two children of her own she strives to be strong like her mom. When she became a Habitat homeowner at Mt. Burdell Place in Novato, Alejandra felt that her hard work had finally paid off.

“Everything I worked for and all the sacrifices I made are worth it. I couldn’t afford to buy a home, or even rent one. But now I feel so accomplished because my kids live in a good environment.”

She says that with a stable, affordable home, she was finally able to focus on other things to help her children succeed. She applied for her son to attend a new school where he could get a great education, and play sports like basketball and swimming.

His new school requires that all of the parents volunteer. But between Alejandra’s full-time job at the library and attending her children’s extracurricular activities, she knew she had to find a way to be involved that fit her schedule.

Now Alejandra runs the school’s hot lunch program. She often stays up late at night placing the orders, coordinating volunteers, and making sure the food is prepared in time.

Her role brings her to the school at least once a week, but Alejandra says it’s worth it because when she’s there, she demonstrates to her son that education matters. In everything she does, Alejandra exhibits strength and faith that her hard work will result in greater opportunities for her children.

“You have to learn from the hard things in your life. Just keep fighting for what you want and have hope that if you work hard, you will achieve your goals,” she says.

Ellen, Board Member of Habitat Greater San Francisco (2008-2015)

Ellen comes from a long line of hard workers. Her grandfathers worked at the post office and at a garment factory, making ties for the army in World War 2. Her dad was a doctor and her mother a school counselor. In her East Coast town, kids of all walks of life went to school together and had the same level of opportunity. That’s something she can’t say of the Bay Area.

The example of hard work and dedication led Ellen to become the partner of her law firm in San Francisco. During that time, she was introduced to Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.

Ellen gravitated toward the mission of giving families new opportunities for long-term financial stability. She saw homeownership as key to the vision of a diverse community she remembered from her childhood.

She quickly joined the board — a commitment that could not have come at a more transitional period in her life. Ellen became a single mother and her daughter fell ill with chronic pain and fatigue. While keeping her work and family life afloat, Ellen found inspiration in the women she saw working toward their Habitat homes.

Rather than an up-front financial investment, Habitat homeowners complete 500 hours of “sweat equity” before moving into their new homes. Their families and friends spend 500 hours building at the construction site or volunteering in Habitat’s office and our ReStore in San Carlos.

Ellen remembers one single mom in particular. For six months, this rock of a woman completed all 500 hours without saying a word to her children. Cautious from many years of instability from rising rents, she didn’t want to tell her family until she knew for sure that they would have the keys to their own forever home.

This mom took care of her family, made their lunches, attended their extracurricular events, went to work, and in between it all, built a house for her children.

“Strength can be quiet and strength can be soft. It can be flexible and supportive. Sometimes just being there for others is important, and is a kind of strength we don’t pay so much attention to… And I saw it in the Habitat Moms.”

Ellen says her example demonstrated that “just the everyday showing up, being there and participating takes so much courage and strength.”

Please make a donation in honor of the strong women in your life – the mothers, friends, and mentors who show inner and outer strength every day.

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