Angela’s Angels Raise Walls, Support Families with Habitat for Humanity Build

When Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity launched its 2024 Women Build program, Des Moines University Medicine and Health Sciences President and CEO Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., was already on board. She is co-chairing this year’s effort, themed “Education and Housing,” with Rachelle Keck, Ph.D., J.D., president of Grand View University.  

Franklin also organized an all-women team of DMU employees to help build homes for two female-led households this year, and the two presidents worked to recruit additional all-women teams to support the construction effort. 

“I love this program. That so many women leaders work at DMU makes having a Women Build team very special,” Franklin says. “Home is where the heart is, and I value all this program represents. It’s an opportunity to support and give back to other women in our community.” 

President Franklin was chief "gooper" on the home-building project
President Franklin was chief “gooper” on the home-building project

The need is significant. According to Clara Bergan, CFRE, vice president of resource development at Greater Des Moines Habitat, one in 10 Central Iowa families spend more than half their income on housing. Currently, 62% of Habitat’s future homeowners are female-led households, highlighting the pressing need for affordable housing among women. The pay inequities that many women experience exacerbate the need among these families and underscore the need for community support. 

The 13 members of the DMU team were eager to help. Team captains Christina Henderson, Franklin’s executive administrative assistant, and Sue Huppert, the university’s chief external and governmental affairs officer, suggested the team’s name, Angela’s Angels, in honor of Franklin’s favorite collectibles.  

The Angels, who included faculty, staff and clinicians, gathered the morning of May 3, grateful for sunny skies and sturdy footwear for navigating the muddy site. At that point, the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house was just a wooden platform constructed on the basement level. By the end of the day, the team — with the guidance of site manager Colton and the support of four other volunteers — had put both exterior and interior walls in place. 

Bhagwati and Devi, two sisters from Nepal, will occupy the home when it is ready. They are among 36 families that will purchase homes through Greater Des Moines Habitat this year. 

Women Build is one of several Greater Des Moines Habitat programs that benefit families. Those selected to receive a home must first put in 200 hours of sweat equity on other Habitat projects in the community. Habitat provides financial counseling to help ensure families are able and ready to take on mortgage payments.  

Greater Des Moines Habitat is working with another 250 Central Iowa families this year to repair and adjust their homes to enable them to age safely in place. Two Greater Des Moines Habitat ReStore locations in Central Iowa sell new and used home improvement materials to the public at discounted prices; all proceeds support the organization in building more homes. 

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