Caren Woodruff, 2019 Habitat Omaha Power Woman of the Year, has said the sacred trust of a strong community is revealed when people support others during difficult times, as well as allow themselves to be supported when in need.

Caren and her family’s lives were turned inside out three years ago when her youngest child, Josh, was killed in a hit-and-run accident. After that day, she said they began a process of learning how to live again – how to get out of bed, how to work, how to care for themselves, how to care for others and how to fling themselves back into life amid fear. Reflecting on that time, Caren recalled the community who gathered around her when she needed them the most. 

“They came around me in magnificent, beautiful ways to lift me up,” she said. “They picked up this sacred trust that they had been invited to share and carefully did their part. Then they gave it to others and the caring community grew.”

“When we pick up a hammer, or use a blade saw, paint, spend hours in the dirt tearing down the old and building back up a house, a place that will bring peace and comfort for its new owners, we take part in the sacred trust,” she said. “That sacred trust bears another’s burdens and replenishes hope. It buoys a life.”  – Caren Woodruff

Caren speaks candidly about her grief and ongoing effort to direct it to help people who have also experienced hardship as they move toward their goals.

“Josh’s death changed the course of my life and is still changing it,” she said. “I asked, ‘What do I do with this grief to make some good use out of it?’” 

Last year, Caren took a leap, leaving her technology career to dedicate her time to coaching others as they grapple with life’s big questions through her business, QuarterLife Coaching. In addition, she is co-founder of The Force, a women’s coalition with more than 200 members that fights sex trafficking in Nebraska, board member of international nonprofit Boy with a Ball, and a steadfast Habitat Omaha Women Build leader.

Through the Women Build program, Caren offers encouragement to fellow volunteers, as well as to women working toward their dream of being a homeowner, all the while inviting more community members to get involved. 

“When we pick up a hammer, or use a blade saw, paint, spend hours in the dirt tearing down the old and building back up a house, a place that will bring peace and comfort for its new owners, we take part in the sacred trust,” she said. “That sacred trust bears another’s burdens and replenishes hope. It buoys a life.”

At the heart of Caren’s commitment to supporting her community is a desire to expand the impact, inspiring more and more people to get involved.

“You start to think I helped build this, I used this saw. It’s empowering and a feeling that spreads into other parts of life,” she said. “We can keep it growing. Friends grab your friends!” 

We’re grateful to Caren and all the women who take part in Women Build. By the hundreds, they’re making an impact for affordable housing in our community with a can-do attitude, grit and hard work. 

Women Build encourages women to make a difference while having fun building and renovating homes. It brings together women from all walks of life to address the housing crisis facing women and children. To learn more about Women Build and other opportunities to help create more quality, affordable housing in our community, join the Habitat Omaha email list