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Building skills, confidence

When it comes to building houses, women and men are afraid of the same thing, says Gail Frank.

"Power tools in general are the most intimidating," says the Rogue River resident, who was introduced to building houses through Habitat for Humanity's National Women Build Week in 2012.

Frank became a regular volunteer for Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity after attending her first Women Build event. She now works with volunteer crews that are usually about 75 percent male and 25 percent female.

This week, she is back at work on two houses on Mellecker Way in Medford, helping other women gain the skills and confidence to pick up tools and lug lumber around the construction site during 2016's National Women Build Week.

Frank says people new to the program often get their first taste of power tools by using a nail gun. Although heavy, nail guns can be relatively easy and satisfying to use.

Men and women mentors and those new to building are working on houses in Medford for two families who are also pitching in hundreds of hours of work. Much of the focus for this week's work is nailing walls together. For now, the walls are lying on the construction site as lumber is nailed together.

"The walls are lettered," Ashland resident Vickie Augustine points out, noting the walls will go together like puzzle pieces. She also became a volunteer with Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity after attending a 2012 Women Build event.

Augustine says she took wood shop and metal shop in high school and had tackled small projects such as building bulletin boards, but was new to home construction.

"I'd never used a nail gun. I didn't know anything about framing," she says.

Volunteers will raise the walls Saturday during a program that starts at 10 a.m. to celebrate National Women Build Week. Employee volunteers from Lowe's also will help in the effort.

Lowe's home-improvement stores have been hosting events for women to hone their construction skills on smaller projects such as sheds.

Dan Thomas, a Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity staff member who helps train volunteers, says many new volunteers are like deer staring into headlights at first, not sure what to do.

"Later, they're grinning from ear to ear," he says. "Intimidation is one of the biggest things people face. I hear, 'I don't know how to do it.' We say, 'That's OK. A lot of people here were just like you.'"

Thomas says people from all walks of life volunteer to build houses — including a pharmacist, a band teacher, forestry workers, a physical therapist and an opera singer.

After picking up building skills, they start teaching others.

"None of them knew what they were doing a while ago," Thomas says. "Now I find them teaching all the time. It's all volunteer-driven. If they weren't here, these houses wouldn't get built. They have fun. They have a blast."

For more information about Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity, call 541-779-1983 or see www.roguevalleyhabitat.org.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

As part of the Women Build program, Vickie Augustine, left, of Ashland, and Gail Frank, of Rogue River are helping to build a new Habitat For Humanity home on Mellecker Way in Medford. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta
Gail Frank of Rogue River wields a nail gun during a weeklong Women Build event at a Habitat for Humanity house on Mellecker Way in Medford. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta