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NORTH SIOUX CITY | Pounding nails into two-by-fours, Nicole Card got a grip on her childhood. Each swing of the hammer brought back memories of helping her dad, a true Mr. Fix-It if there ever was one. She was a glorified gofer, fetching tools for him whenever he was working on a project.

“He used to call me his other son,” she said.

Since he passed away, she doesn’t get the opportunity to do too many home improvement projects anymore. So on Wednesday afternoon, building the interior walls of a Siouxland Habitat for Humanity home took her back to the days of doing roofing, siding and window work with her dad.

“It’s a great feeling,” she said. “He’d be proud that I was here.”

Card and four other women with United Real Estate Solutions put their construction skills to the test during a belated outing for National Women Build Week.

Habitat for Humanity’s annual event, sponsored by Lowe’s, encourages women to devote at least one day to help build affordable housing in their communities. It also spotlights homeownership challenges women may face.

Activities are planned during the week leading up to Mother’s Day, but rain postponed the realtors’ volunteer day.

With the sun shining down on the skeleton of timber, the women, wearing deep pink T-shirts, picked up 16-ounce hammers and filled their canvas aprons with a handful of nails.

They went to work framing up rooms for the Harvest Bend housing project in North Sioux City under the watchful eye of construction coordinator John Gunia.

He gave them fair warning about site safety and offered to teach them how to use power tools. By the end of the day, he hoped they’d be able to walk away with an appreciation for craftsmanship and a sense of accomplishment.

Ann Peterson, a repeat volunteer, still drives by the house she helped build during last year’s event, proud to see it’s still standing. She’s used to doing projects with a paintbrush rather than tacking together lumber with 16-penny nails.

“We thought they might have us come in and paint a wall or fix lunch,” she said. “We started with just this floor and we did all four of the outside walls, lifted 'em up, tied them together and that was our project for the day. We were all so amazed at what we could get done.”

Working in real estate, these women have more experience selling homes than building them. But that’s not to say they can’t learn how.

“In our household, there was no women’s work or men’s work,” Card said. “The boys had to do dishes and laundry. Girls had to mow lawns. We all learned how to do everything. My brothers are excellent cooks. I’m not going to say I’m a carpenter, but I know my tools.”

While she’s not quite Ms. Fix-It, she can handle a hammer and the other women found that they can, too.


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