Celebrating big occasions like a bachelor party or milestone birthday with a debauched expensive weekend of excess at an adult amusement park like Vegas or Atlantic City, seems kind of wrong at the moment.
Jessica Goldsmith Barzilay had a better idea on how to usher in the big 4-0: she got together 18 of her best friends and did a Women Build with a local Habitat for Humanity chapter. The idea was inspired by her Hero-in-Chief, President Obama.
“Watching the inauguration in January, with my sister Joy, I applauded loudly with some ‘right ons’ as he spoke of a new era of responsibility. As I realized it is easy for me to agree from the comfort of my seat, I put aside my tub of popcorn and declared that I was going to have a 40th Birthday of Service. I started doing some research. To be honest, if Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity (RVHFH) had not been so enthusiastic I may not have followed through with the idea.”
She followed through and on July 18, she and her friends celebrated her birthday in Somerset, NJ, helping to build an affordable home for a hard working, low income family. “The women worked hard, learned quickly, and raised more than $1400 for Women Builds. They laid tile, painted, cut baseboard, and installed the back porch floor. These women win the prize for the most energetic and enthusiastic group of builders. There were loud cheers for the first woman to get a screw in or cut the first floorboard. It was definitely a party complete with food, birthday cake, balloons and party bags,” said Kathy Tanaka, Women Build Coordinator for RVHFH. Jessica put together party bags that included a manicure kit (much needed after a day of building) and a build themed CD with songs such as : If I Had a Hammer, I’d Like to Build the World a Home, and I am Woman.
Habitat for Humanity's Women Build program, which is underwritten nationally by Lowe’s, seeks to bring women from all walks of life together to learn construction skills and then to use those skills to build simple, decent, affordable houses for hard working families. The homes are not only being built by women but the project is being funded by the women volunteers as well. Habitat offers families a hand up, not a hand out. Every partner family devotes at least 250 hours of “sweat equity” to help build their home or a neighbor’s home and secures a 0% mortgage provided by Habitat. Habitat supports partner families with training in budgeting, home and landscape maintenance, and how to be a good neighbor.
“The day made me feel so good and so supported! It really took the sting out of turning 40” said Barzilay, the Assistant Director of The Family Resource Network, a statewide non-profit serving individuals with disabilities and caregivers.