Story shared by Holly Wilhelm.
Women in Construction (WinC) did more for my family than I am able to put into words. When my son was about 18-months old, I woke up one morning and grabbed our emergency bag out of the closet and left our home and our life behind. That day marks an anniversary for me. Day one of freedom.
The following year was really hard but so full of growth and learning. While on my journey, (some might say “struggle,” but I am proud to always believe the glass is half full) I sought out any and all resources I would possibly need to become self-sufficient. I had dropped out of school and quit my job in order to become a stay-at-home mom, so I knew I would need some type of training and childcare in order to get my life rolling in the right direction.
After one particularly long and desperate day of job and daycare searching, luck, fate, God, or the stars decided to bless me with a little neon flyer offering a free construction class for women. I had never actually used a real power tool in my life, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t interested. That was an ‘Aha!’ moment for me. It made sense, so I called the number on the flyer and went down to the organization’s office to find out if I had what it would take to become a tradeswoman. The next eight weeks changed my life.
Every day, I learned something new. I was taught how to properly use power tools. I learned to measure, cut, frame, and build. I was very unsure of myself the first couple weeks, always doubting, always second guessing. The strong, determined women I was working and learning alongside inspired me to push on- to do more, to do better. I admired the program coordinator’s patience and skill. I watched and learned through his talented method of teaching. I envied the other students’ openness and trust that they seemed to so easily have in each other. I didn’t realize it at the time, but even though I mostly felt weak, I was growing strong in so many ways.
Those eight weeks in July and August were my saving grace. Each morning I followed Simone; performing aerobic exercises, cutting weight, and building muscles so I would be as strong as I needed to do the work I wanted while gaining endurance as well. I was also learning to be a team player and share roles and responsibilities with my classmates as we worked hard together placing siding on houses, painting, hanging soffit, and replacing tiles on bathroom floors. Something happened inside of me while I was out in that Mississippi heat sweating through my clothes, swinging that hammer. Something game-changing. I mean, you can’t just rearrange or restart everything in your life on the outside and not expect your soul to be moved, too.
My mind became stronger each day as I reflected on the progress I made, the small steps I was taking to move my baby and I out of the darkness and into the light. I recall being very aware of every blessing I received, and knew God was with me, leading me and guiding on my path. It was completely exhausted and beat down, yet finally at peace.
I met wonderful people from my community who cared about the things I cared about, like preserving the environment and quality childcare for the little people who are our future. I was surrounded by support and constantly felt an outpouring of love and understanding from peers who had experienced similar circumstances. I had never in my life faced the things I was facing then, and it was so moving just to know I wasn’t alone. So, you see, I went to Women In Construction hoping to get some training and certifications to help me land a good job, but I came out of that program with a completely different understanding and appreciation of my life, my goals, my accomplishments, my gifts, and my future.
Click here for another great story about one of the leaders of Women in Construction.
Women in Construction is currently expanding its program to serve more women and helping towards relief efforts in LA. If you want to get involved here’s what you can do. If you’d like to donate, these are the things folks are in need of to effectively respond:
-Walmart Gift Cards
Please call 228-207-5265 for drop off information.
Thank you for your consideration.