DRACUT — In late April, friends Jessica Keefe and Alexandra Leavitt found themselves building up the frame of a home in Gulfport, Mississippi.
The Dracut women toiled under the sun over two days with the guidance of a contractor. The experience was made possible through Habitat for Humanity, a global non-profit housing organization.
“It was definitely an eye-opening experience,” said Keefe, 24, who works as a communications coordinator at St. Francis Parish. “I’ve done mission trips for years but I’ve been more of a coordinator. I set up the projects, but I haven’t personally done the work, like the actual physical building.”
Keefe and Leavitt, 21, donated their time through a Habitat for Humanity program called Women Build. Since 1991, Women Build volunteers from all walks of life have come together to build stronger, safer communities, according to the organization’s website.
Hurricane Katrina’s wrath in 2005 brought death and devastation to Gulfport, Mississippi’s second largest city.
“It’s been years now and they’ve done a good job at rebuilding, but there’s still a lot of work to be done in the area,” Keefe told The Sun earlier this month. “It’s not all there.”
When the women arrived to their project site on April 21, Keefe said the foundation had been done.
“We got to do a lot of wood cutting and preparing to put up the framing of the house, for the walls,” she recalled. “We used lots of different tools and we used skill saws and nail guns… I may have used one or two of them, but it’s definitely been a long time so my experience using them was empowering.”
According to Leavitt, she and Keefe spent the first day getting acquainted with the tools and then, on their second day, worked on the house frame.
“It was an amazing experience to be hands on and use a skill saw and nail gun,” she said.
Leavitt said she’s volunteered at soup kitchens and children’s camps, but this was a unique experience.
“To me, it definitely opened my eyes,” she said, adding that she and Keefe were able to sign their names on wooden beams after their work was complete. “We don’t know who is going to receive the house yet, but just knowing that we took a part in putting together a house for a deserving family is humbling. It’s definitely awesome.”
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.