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Women get construction jobs done

Katie DeJournett, who first came to Hosanna Industries as a volunteer in 2012, enjoys helping others with the construction skills she has learned.

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part story about Hosanna Industries. The first part appeared in Wednesday’s edition.

By Paula Grubbs

Eagle Staff Writer

NEW SEWICKLEY TWP, Beaver Co. — The Hosanna Industries construction crew has grown accustomed to the reaction of clients when their trucks pull up and eight women — dressed in paint-spattered clothes and tool belts — pile out and begin unloading equipment.

“One little old lady needed nine windows replaced,” recalled 20-year crew veteran Amy Lee Firek. “Three girls show up, and she said, ‘OK, so where are the guys?’”

Firek said her small, all-female crew had the new windows in by lunchtime.

“She said ‘I can’t believe you women do this man’s work and you do such a nice job,’” Firek said.

Amanda Becker, who works in the Hosanna office and on the construction crew, said there was never any concerted effort to hire women for the construction crew. She said many of the female mission workers looking to serve Christ by volunteering at Hosanna Industries were trained at the Trade Skill Learning Center on the organization’s large campus, and many stayed.

“It just happened,” she said of the female crew.

Becker said the crew, which also includes three men, works anywhere from six to 12 hours, Monday through Friday, rehabilitating existing homes or “blitz building” new homes for the needy. All of the workers are paid, but are joined by local volunteers or mission groups who travel to Hosanna and stay in the two-story dormitory on the campus.

Hosanna crews repair and install plumbing, electric, flooring, plaster or drywall, roofs, appliances, and anything else a homeowner may need completed. Hosanna crews recently built a 12-by-16 addition on a small home in Evans City.

Like all of the women on the crew, Becker also laughs about memories of clients’ reactions when the ladies arrive on the job. She said last year, the women pulled up to a home where a leaky roof was in need of repair.

“She said ‘What are you girls doing here?’” Becker recalled with a chuckle. “She said ‘You can’t get up on those ladders.’”

Katie DeJournette, who lives in the women’s residence on the Hosanna campus, had served on countless mission trips in high school and college. After graduating from the latter in 2012, she came to Hosanna Industries to volunteer.

Although she had no construction experience, Hosanna’s founder and executive director, the Rev. Donn Ed, encouraged her to stick it out for six months. She agreed, and learned her craft at the Trade Skill Learning Center. That was two years ago.

“How to hold a hammer, that was my first lesson,” DeJournette said.

Now that she’s a veteran, DeJournette enjoys flooring projects.

“It’s one of the things I’ve become really good at,” she said.

DeJournette, a petite brunette with striking blue eyes, loves the clients’ smiling faces and tears of joy when a long-neglected repair has been completed or a new, modest home built.

“I feel like that’s what we’re called to do as servants of Christ,” she said.

Firek recalled her first day on the job, when someone told her to go find a three-foot length of two-by-four. She took out her tape measure and began measuring boards, unaware that the sturdy framing boards were actually 1.5 by 3.5 inches because the lumber industry had reduced their size many years ago.

“I was gone for 20 minutes,” she recalled. “I didn’t know what a two-by-four really was.”

Firek said she loves painting, and enjoys the safety, warmth and lower heating bills clients enjoy when new windows are installed.

She also learned everything she knows at Hosanna’s Trade Skill Learning Center, and loves her job, co-workers, and especially clients.

“I didn’t know the need in our own backyard,” Firek said.

Becker said one female homeowner helped by crews was on 10 medications for depression when Hosanna crews arrived. She and other workers encouraged her to help with the repairs, and taught her how to complete small fixes.

“She called us after the job was finished and said she is off all her medications,” Becker said. “She invited us to come back and see the repairs she had done.”

The crew also looks forward to summer, when mission groups come to volunteer on the jobs.

“I had a 7-year-old and an 80-year-old on one project,” Firek said. “They were both able to help.”

DeJournette said she enjoys working with volunteers who travel to Hosanna Industries regularly.

“It’s fun reuniting with them,” she said.

Brian Hetzer, who has served on Hosanna construction crews for 20 years, reflects on the calling to serve others.

He said women bring many special elements to a job site usually occupied by men.

“They have a wonderful spirit, they are very organized, they are compassionate, and they care about people much more than they do about two-by-fours,” Hetzer said.

To donate to or volunteer with Hosanna Industries, log onto www.hosannaindustries.org.