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Nur B. Adam, Bucks County Courier Times
Beth Allen repaired her first faucet at age 17. Her family never had enough money to hire a professional, her parents argued about how to do the job, and Allen decided she could do it herself.
Years later, Allen would channel her DIY know-how into a growing business, DIY Hip Chicks, and empower other women to do home improvement projects themselves.
More and more women are doing this, according to research.
More women are involved in all aspects of construction and home improvement — women make up about 10 percent of all construction workers, a figure that is likely to increase by 6 percent by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Lowes and Home Depot report that more than half of their clients are women and they initiate 80% of home improvement projects.
Among them are Jessica Nyce, a native of Northampton, and her mother, Mary, who recently took a home improvement course led by Allen.
Nyce said she took the class because she wanted to make repairs and renovations to her home. Learning side-by-side with her mother was a bonus and helped strengthen their relationship, Nyce said.
“Both my mom and I decided to take Beth’s first DIY introductory class. I heard about it, thought it was interesting and told my mom and she was on board too,” Nyce said. “So we took that first class which lasted a couple of weeks.
“Beth taught us how to choose, hold and use certain tools that work best for us, and which projects to manage at home,” Nyce added. “She also taught us what to leave to the professionals, and when we go with a professional, Beth taught us how to interact with them and what to watch out for as the (home improvement) project progresses.”
Allen, who is an author and has appeared on NBC, ABC, PHL, FOX and The Rachael Ray Show, said the women seeking her or her class come from myriad backgrounds.
“I find that the women looking for me are usually divorced, alone, or have a husband who works full-time and has no time or interest” to do the project, Allen said. “And they find they want it done but can’t wait for him. Nor may they have the income to hire a contractor.
“And some are struggling financially and have to do it economically, which is something I can relate to,” Allen added. “Everyone wants a home that looks good, but many women end up walking away from the program, more moved by the confidence that comes with it.
“They are very happy that they saved money (by doing the home improvement project themselves), and they are thriving with confidence.”
Allen said her family survived paycheck to paycheck and that “do-it-yourself was a way of life because we just didn’t have the extra money” to hire people.
“I grew up with yard sales and then repairing or refinishing things to save money,” Allen said. “I still shop at thrift stores looking for something to save. DIY is a hands-on, self-reliant way of life.”
Allen teaches a five-week home improvement program at Bucks County Community College that teaches women about tools, plumbing, painting and electrical basics, as well as weathering techniques.
“I think Beth is really an inspiration and she really knows what she’s talking about,” said Nyce, noting that before enrolling in Allen’s course, she had deep doubts about whether she would be able to make repairs on her home at all. to do. “She really gives women the knowledge to do things you don’t think you can do, and gives you the confidence to do it.”
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Finding Empowerment Through Drywall
Allen began teaching at Bucks County Community College in 2016, and interest in DIY, especially among women, has only grown since then, said Donna Kirn, director of Continuing Education and Community Programs at the university.
“Women have embraced the program more; it was a bit skewed because of the pandemic,” Kirn said. “These women come from all walks of life. And it was just amazing to see these women grow every day and see that spark to work with other women and learn from them and help them.”
Allen typically enrolls 20 students in each course she teaches.
Kirn has attended Allen’s class herself and has also enrolled in Allen’s Home Improvement Hero Academy. Academy attendees receive 10 pre-recorded DIY video tutorials, lifetime access to content and printable resources, a private Facebook group invite, bi-weekly group coaching sessions, and personal tutoring.
“It’s empowering to have that knowledge and that understanding,” said Florence Kawoczka, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Bucks County. “We don’t want anyone to turn off their electricity, but it also gives them the knowledge that if they need to call an electrician or plumber, they know what they’re talking about.”
Habitat for Humanity Bucks County also offers several women-focused home improvement courses, and there has been a noticeable increase in women enrolling in the nonprofit’s home ownership program.
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Habitat builds and renovates houses with the help of the future homeowner. Habitat homes are sold to non-profit partner families and financed with affordable loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are used to build more Habitat homes.
“The cool thing has been lately — and we serve families of all shapes and sizes — but lately, a string of single moms have been putting in a lot of hours of sweating, usually 100 to 200 hours,” Kawoczka said. “That way they can get a first-hand look at what’s behind the walls, make sure they’re comfortable installing drywall, plug gaps, and understand what’s going on with electricity and plumbing.
That empowerment manifests when current homeowners make return visits, often showing off the additions and improvements made to their homes.
Kawoczka said Habitat arranged a home for a single mother of four children last June. The mother made a purchase from Habitat’s ReStore, excitedly displaying photos of her home and the furniture work she had completed and “was so rightly proud” of what she had accomplished.
Kawoczka also noted that during another home initiation in December, this time the recipient was a single mother with two teenage children, one of the children stood up and spoke about his mother’s positive transformation.
“One of the teens got up to speak and she told how she had watched her mother work hard over the past few months to not only get her finances in order, but also that her (new) house was in order by painting it. and do everything else to make it a home,” Kawoczka said. “The teen was so proud of her mother.”