Ms. Fix It Fair empowers women to tackle household maintenance and repairs

rcopley@herald-leader.comAugust 23, 2014 

For years, Ponice Cruse's uncle lived next to her house and took care of all her household repairs. He even mowed her lawn.

"Then, a few years ago, he got sick, and he told me he didn't think he would be able to keep helping me," Cruse said. "So he told me I needed to come here and start to learn to do these things for myself."

"Here" was the Ms. Fix It Fair at Sullivan University, presented by the Bluegrass chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction. The fair, started eight years ago, offered a variety of classes on topics including drywall, plumbing, grouting and caulking, lawn mower maintenance and building a table.

Organizers said the event was organized to empower women to take care of household maintenance and repairs, which are often seen as men's work.

"It's just passed down generations," said Serena Cassidy, a Lexington Realtor and member of NAWIC, who led the table-building class. "Dads take their sons out to work on the car, mom shows the daughter how to use the vacuum cleaner."

But she and fellow NAWIC organizer Diana Hagan, a project manager for Messer Construction, say they see that changing, with more women waiting until later in life to get married, and divorced and widowed women needing to learn to do things themselves. Also, they noted, not every guy is a Mr. Fix It.

During Cassidy's class on Saturday, she displayed a nail gun and called it "a Tim the Tool Man special," referring to Tim Allen's character on the ABC sitcom Home Improvement. Several times, she led the class in Allen's trademark grunts to celebrate power tools, including the miter saw, which a number of class members got to use.

When someone suggested that a participant might want a glass of wine to calm her nerves about using the nail gun, NAWIC member Martina Wisherd advised, with a laugh, "I'm not sure nail guns and glasses of wine go well together."

By the end of the hourlong class, the table was almost finished, and Kim Sutton of Edgewood said it was well worth her time to spend the night in Lexington to get to the fair, which started at 8:30 a.m.

"I'm buying a new-old home up in Newport, and I want to be able to work on fixing it up," said Sutton, who has a design company and owns rental property. "I work with a contractor, but love to know how to do these things myself."

Lawyer Angela Evans said she attended the fair because "I'm a single woman with a home. I need to learn to make these repairs myself without having to pay someone to do them.

"A lot of them are simple jobs, you just need to be brave enough to do them," Evans said.

In the plumbing class, Peggy Legg of Nicholasville said she liked that most of the classes were hands-on.

"It will make me more confident at home if I have already done this," she said.

Leading the class on lawn mower maintenance, Bobby Jones said he was aiming to show participants how simple it is.

"It's just fire, fuel and compression," he said, referring to the motor. "Once you've got that down, it runs fine."

Asked if there was any concern whether teaching people to do these things might take work away from repair people, the retired repairman, who still does handyman work, said no.

"If you can help people, you do it," he said. "My phone still rings."

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @LexGoKY. Blog: copiousnotes.bloginky.com.

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