By Robert Nathan

Killeen Daily Herald

Barbara Bennett never thought volunteers helping her build a new home would attract much attention. She was too overwhelmed by the opportunity to have her own home.

But on Thursday, while surrounded by volunteers and city officials, along with Texas' first lady Anita Perry and Arkansas first lady Janet Huckabee, Bennett and her family were the focus of celebrating First Families Building Homes Across America.

"If it wasn't for Habitat for Humanity, I probably wouldn't be able to get a home," Bennett said before Perry and Huckabee helped raise a wall on the foundation of the new home in the 1500 block of Anna Lee Drive. "I got the first ladies, I'm going to put a picture of them up – the first ladies holding up that wall."

Originally from Lockhart, Bennett has lived in Killeen almost 20 years. She said getting to the construction of her new home took a long time. The process began by filling out applications through Habitat for Humanity.

Construction of the Bennett family's home is the second Women Build project taken on by the Fort Hood Area Habitat for Humanity, sponsored nationally by Lowe's. The project gives women the opportunity to learn construction skills and to use these skills to help move families out of poverty.

"Woman, when you get out there and you have a good time and it's hot and sweaty, just know you're doing this for a wonderful person," Huckabee said. "Know you're doing this for children; know you're giving someone a safe and secure home."

Construction of the home – which will house Barbara, her two daughters and her grandson – began on June 10. Work will continue every Saturday for the next 10 weekends, except during the July Fourth holiday.

Most of the home's construction will be completed by women, but Bennett expects some men to help.

Huckabee and Perry have been working together on First Families Building Homes Across America and focus much of their volunteer efforts on improving the quality of life for families and building stronger communities.

"I'm delighted to be involved here with the Bennett family and helping them realize their dreams of a new home," Perry said. "It brings the community together and shows volunteerism and spirit, and it empowers women because we're very strong."

The lot was donated by Ray and Lillian Meyer and once was the site of a home destroyed by fire. The damaged structure was razed by the city of Killeen and its code enforcement department, along with the Community Development Division, using grant funds.

Funds for the Bennett family home were provided by four organizations: Lowe's is the underwriter for Habitat's Women Build program and is donating money, materials and training clinics; the Seawell Elam Foundation; the United Way; and the city of Killeen HOME program.

"Access to housing is the basics for healthy communities," Mayor Tim Hancock told the volunteers before the wall was lifted. "But housing is more than breaking mortar; housing is about people and changing lives."

Contact Robert Nathan at

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