MOWIT volunteers remodel kitchen and baths at Baker House transitional home for women


MAKING A DIFFERENCE in their community, Missouri Women in Trades (MOWIT) members Danni Palmer (left) and Kay Hart, both carpenters, hang drywall at an apartment at the Baker House, a transitional home for women. The pair took part in an eight-day event sponsored by MOWIT to remodel two kitchens and two bathrooms at the home. – MOWIT photo

More than 50 volunteers teamed up for an eight-day event sponsored by Missouri Women in Trades (MOWIT) to remodel two kitchens and two bathrooms at the Baker House, a transitional home for women.

The apartment building, operated by the Center for Women in Transition (CWIT), houses 12 women and provides wrap-around services for women reentering the St. Louis community from jail or prison.

The remodel was held Tuesday and Thursday evenings and all day Saturdays and Sundays from May 7 to June 2. A total of 560 manhours were donated to complete the project.

“Efforts like the Baker Build are wonderful opportunities to expose women to the construction industry as an employment option,” said MOWIT Co-Founder and Board Member Beth Barton.

“We demolished all fixtures, drywall and plumbing and reinstalled all new items, including all bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets, and light fixtures,” she said.

The Baker House is owned by Keyway, which owns five properties in the St. Louis area.

MOWIT’s involvement with Keyway began in 2019 when representatives from both organizations attended a meeting about area nonprofits that serve women.

“When I heard what they were doing, I wanted to learn more about potential ways we could partner,” Barton said. “We discussed what we could do together since we already had this workdays program. They asked what we could do to show women how they could do projects like this and use support in various projects.”

MOWIT provides free construction services for the program and fundraises to cover the cost of materials. They also request donations and provide skilled volunteer labor.

“We advertise it to the community so it can be a recruiting event,” Beth said. “Women and men are welcome to come learn some skills and get their hands on some tools alongside professionals.”

The program is a teaching opportunity for people considering a career in the trades. They can see, for example, what a plumber does, and how to hang drywall or put in cabinets. Then they can decide how much they like it.

Besides housing, Keyway provides healthcare, financial training, wellness programs and learning skills on how to interview to help them with career planning.

MOWIT has recruited women from the Keyway program, which is a win-win for everyone.

Barton said that one of the program’s resident heard about MOWIT and its purpose and came to an orientation session where she learned about their pre-apprenticeship sessions.

“She is now in our pre-apprenticeship program, and she is killing it,” Beth said. “She’s already had an interview with the plumbers and has a good chance of being an apprentice.

“That is just one more life we have changed by having this program,” she said.

“We had four women last year who went into apprenticeship programs through the Baker Build, and this will be the third woman this year so far.”

MOWIT has done two total gut remodels of two kitchens and two bathrooms at the Baker House.

“When we’re ready, or we want to plan something, we ask them if there’s anything that needs doing,” Barton said. “They have all these properties, so it’s easy for them to come up with something.”

Because Keystone knows MOWIT is capable of providing the skills, it recently called MOWIT to help with a sewer emergency.

“For many women, it’s the pride they get for doing construction trades,” Barton said. “It’s still kind of a novelty because so few women do it. The women who do are proud that they’re able to do it, and they’re making it happen. On top of that, it’s a fantastic way in a union career with benefits, and they need us to make that happen.”

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