When volunteers work at a San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity (SGV Habitat) construction site, they are greeted with an array of new experiences. With our “no experience necessary policy” many volunteers have never stepped foot on a construction site, however, after working with Haydee Garcia, SGV Habitat’s construction crew member, volunteers quickly feel at ease under her guidance and encouragement.
Haydee represents a small percentage of women that work in construction. Currently, there are only 6.2% of women that work on construction sites in the United States. Haydee is no stranger to working in male dominated industries. Although she has been building homes with SGV Habitat for over 15 years (first as a volunteer and then as a member of the construction team), she has been breaking the gender barrier for much longer.
“I started my career at a young age in law enforcement. “Back then, it was mostly a male dominated profession. I moved up in the ranks as a detective working investigations and was one of the very few women in the investigation’s bureau,” Haydee explains.
After she retired from law enforcement, she decided to explore a new passion—interior design. One of the requirements was to participate in an internship. “I decided to volunteer with Habitat because I wanted to learn what was behind the walls (of a home) so I would have an understanding of what it takes to make the outside beautiful,” Haydee shares.
Although the internship was supposed to be temporary, Haydee quickly realized she loved construction. “I loved getting my hands dirty, working with the volunteers and working outside in the fresh air,” Haydee shares. The courses she took in interior design didn’t go to waste. Haydee is better able to explain the vision of the project and offer insights. Coming from a mostly male dominated profession, she knew she had the tools to inspire other women to do more and achieve their goals, no matter the “traditional” gender roles.
“Because of Haydee’s patience and guidance, I learned how to use a nail gun, how to rip and cut wood and how to use a paint sprayer—things I thought I was not capable of learning,” Natasha, SGV Habitat volunteer said. “I was excited to volunteer because I was looking for a career change and I wanted to see if I liked doing construction—now I know I do. Seeing how skilled and confident Haydee is on the construction site, encourages me to pursue a career in construction,” Natasha continued.
Throughout the years Haydee has inspired many women, some who have considered work in construction, and others who after working with Haydee, felt more confident about making repairs in their own home. “Women should not be intimidated on a construction site. Working on a construction site is not a matter of strength, it is a matter of your mindset,” Haydee shares. “It is how you approach the tasks at hand.”
Volunteers will have the opportunity to work with Haydee at SGV Habitat’s annual event WOMEN BUILD. This empowering event will kick-off with a celebration on March 10th and 11th when community partners gather to build SGV Habitat’s first home in Altadena. WOMEN BUILD is an opportunity for the community to come together to support a family in building an affordable home, which would not be possible without the dedication of volunteers and sponsors. It is also a time to raise awareness for the need of more affordable homeownership opportunities for women locally and around the world.
Over the years Haydee has worked with hundreds of volunteers. She has helped volunteers realize their strength and capabilities. She has worked side by side with future SGV Habitat homeowners creating long term skills, and a foundation of stability where families can thrive. The bonds she has formed with families have remained strong. She has developed friendships with many of them, communicating regularly.
“The most gratifying part of my job is seeing the appreciation from the homeowners. The homeowners who express their gratitude and continue to volunteer on new projects make this job more than just a job, it becomes a passion,” Haydee said with earnest.
In honor of Haydee’s work with SGV Habitat and the community, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf will recognize Haydee on February 15th at 1 p.m. at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Monrovia (702 E. Huntington Dr.) 20% off all proceeds will be donated to SGV Habitat from February 15th– February 21st, 2023.