People of Housing security:
Habitat for Humanity Site Director, Sarah Woolford, shares her experiences working in the construction field, as well as helping people in the community attain affordable housing.
Bloomington native Sarah Woolford grew up around construction and do-it-yourself activities. This ultimately led her to a career in construction, where she now works as a Site Director at Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County.
Growing up, Sarah’s father was always doing some sort of project around the house. Sarah quickly learned the major benefits of being “handy” and knowing how to fix things. With help and teaching from her grandmother, Sarah was exposed to some of the more aesthetic aspects of construction. This included spray painting, DIY-ing, and sewing.
During high school, Sarah learned that many of her interests lay between construction and education. When she heard about the Hoosier Hills Career Center’s Construction Trade program, she knew that she had to do it. However, she faced a lot of backlash from her guidance counselor. Her counselor couldn’t seem to understand why an AP student like Sarah would want to go into construction. Despite these hurdles and projected stereotypes, Sarah insisted and did it anyway.
While at the Hoosier Hills Career Center, Sarah learned many of the basic skills needed for construction work. Her passion for construction continued when she decided to attend Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.
She went in as an undecided major, but after taking an introductory-level Construction Management class, she declared her major as Construction Management. During her education, she participated in a few different internship programs, including ones with Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, Walsh Group in Chicago, and Loren Wood Builders.
After graduating from Ball State in 2018, Sarah began working at Loren Wood Builders, a family-owned design-build firm in Bloomington. Here Sarah was able to do a variety of different tasks such as site supervision, framing, estimating, and electrical work. One specific project that she worked on was the Hoosier Heights climbing gym in Bloomington.
While Sarah enjoyed a lot of the work she did at Loren Wood, during the pandemic she began to feel burnt out. Sarah was seeking a job that fulfilled her interests, but also satisfied her yearning to make a difference. For a moment, she considered going back to school to get a degree in education but then found out about a job opening at Habitat.
Sarah applied, and in February 2022 she became a Site Director at Habitat for Humanity. In this role, Sarah loves that she is able to combine both her interests in construction and education. As a construction site supervisor, Sarah is in a very much “boots on the ground” position. She works on-site building homes, engages with volunteers 3 days a week, and completes necessary office tasks some days that ensure projects run seamlessly.
Currently, Sarah is helping with the Indiana University Kelley Institute for Social Impact (KISI) build, sponsored by Whirlpool.
Through this project, she has the opportunity to build with and educate many Kelley School of Business students.
Through working with Habitat for Humanity, Sarah has learned a lot about the impacts of housing insecurity, as well as the struggles that often come with trying to rent or purchase a home.
“People simplify the process of getting a home and it can be really, really complicated.”
“People simplify the process of getting a home and it can be really, REALLY COMPLICATED.”
Sarah also feels that people misunderstand the clients Habitat works with, as well as what the process looks like.
Sarah explained that each homeowner must spend 250 hours, including 100 construction-related hours, during the build of their home. During these hours, homeowners are able to participate in educational activities that help them better understand the home-ownership process. Along with this, all Habitat homeowners pay a reduced mortgage price on their home, which is 30% of their income.
When Sarah is not working, she enjoys doing home construction projects. In 2020, Sarah bought a home and is still completing some renovations. Along with personal projects, she also spends a lot of time outdoors and hanging out with her family and friends.
Sarah considers herself an open book. An important aspect to Sarah and her identity is that she is epileptic. To Sarah, this has given her life a certain amount of perspective.
Along with her experience with Habitat for Humanity, her family has a history in the field of housing security in Monroe County. Sarah’s grandmother, Shirley St. John, was the founder and first board president of the Shalom Center, now known as Beacon Inc., and was also active with volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Sarah’s mom, Jane St. John, and her aunt, Ann St. John, were also heavily involved with Habitat for Humanity.
“Housing [needs] has been something that I have been made aware of since a young age,” Sarah said.
Ultimately, Sarah’s passion for creating affordable housing and skill in construction makes her not only an asset to Habitat for Humanity but also to the Monroe County community as a whole.
About the People of Housing Security: This series highlights the work of those committed to improving the lives of residents in South Central Indiana. Find all the articles in this series here.